The strangest crab that has ever lived | 5/7/2019 | Eleanor Imster
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See Callichimaera perplexa in 3D: Watch this video to see an animated, three-dimensional recreation of the puzzling mid-Cretaceous crab that, scientists say, is forcing a rethink of what a crab is.

A recent discovery of hundreds of fossils has given the crab family a new cousin, a 95-million-year-old extinct species that, scientists say, will force us to rethink the definition of a crab.

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An international team of researchers discovered the exceptionally well-preserved specimens, dating back to the mid-Cretaceous period of 90-95 million years ago, in rock formations in Colombia and the United States.

The most intriguing discovery, according to the researchers, is Callichimaera perplexa. They say the creature, about the size of a quarter with paddle-like legs, is the earliest example of a swimming arthropod since the extinction of sea scorpions more than 250 million years ago. The name derives from the chimera, a mythological creature that has body features from more than one animal. Callichimaera’s full name translates to “perplexing beautiful chimera.”

Reconstruction - Callichimaera - Perplexa - Image - Elissa

Artistic reconstruction of Callichimaera perplexa. Image via Elissa Martin, Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History.

Yale University paleontologist Javier Luque led the study, which was published April 24, 2019, in the journal Science Advances. Luque said that the crab’s “unusual and cute” appearance — large compound eyes with no sockets, bent claws, leg-like mouth parts, exposed tail, and long body — are features typical of crab larvae from the open sea. He said this suggests that some ancient crabs retained a few of their larval traits into adulthood, amplified them, and developed a new body architecture. This is an evolutionary process called heterochrony. Luque said:

Callichimaera - Perplexa

Callichimaera perplexa is so unique and strange that it can be...
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