On the News @ The Guardian
Pincer-wielding 507m-year-old fossil sheds light on evolution of crabs
“A fossilised ancient creature boasting huge pincers resembling can-openers, a hinged two-piece shell and more than 50 pairs of legs has been discovered, shedding light on the evolutionary past of a huge and diverse group of animals.
Researchers say the creature, thought to have lived about 507 million years ago during the Cambrian period, offers insights into the early body plan of mandibulates – a group that encompasses creatures including millipedes, crabs and ants. The group takes its name from the presence of mouth parts known as mandibles, which the animals use to help hold or eat food.
“Because it is such a big group, the question is why was it so successful, why did it manage to diversify so much?,” said Cédric Aria, co-author of the study from the Nanjing Institute for Geology and Palaeontology, in China. “We really lacked an insight into the characters, the traits, that really were fundamental to that diversification.”
The sturdy-looking creature, adds Aria, was about 10cm long and would have been found walking on the seafloor, perhaps occasionally swimming, and probably fed on soft-bodied animals that were adept at escaping or hiding.
The prey, says Aria, would have been caught by the animal using its two large pincers. “When I first started to study this animal I really thought that they looked like one of those old can openers,” he said.” (…) READ MORE
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