‘Completely bizarre’ chimera fossil crab discovered: ‘you wonder ‘what there is’

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Even Dr. Frankenstein and his monster would be jealous of this creature.

Paleontologists have unearthed the fossil of a old crab who lived between 90 and 95 million years ago and is so “utterly bizarre” it is, literally, astonished the researchers.

Known as Callichimaera perplexa, which means “mind-boggling beautiful chimera,” the crab had an assortment of parts of the body, that would be Mr. Potato Head green with envy.


“We started to look at these fossils, and we find they had what looked like the eyes of a larva, the mouth of a shrimp, the claws of a frog, crab, and the carapace of a lobster,” said Javier Luque, lead author and postdoctoral paleontologist in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta and at Yale University, in a statement.

Luque continued: “We have an idea of what a typical crab looks like—and these new fossils, break all the rules.”

An artistic reconstruction of Callichimaera perplexa: the “strangest crab that ever lived.” (Credit: Oksana Vernygora, UAlberta)

In Greek mythology a chimera had the head of a lion, body of a goat and the tail of a snake.

The researchers wrote that the discovery and C. perplexa the body is of type challenges the conventional image of what was previously crabs looked like. “Our phylogenetic analyses including representatives of all major lines of fossil and existing crabs, challenge conventional views of their evolution, by revealing multiple convergent losses of a typical ‘crab-like’ body plan since the Early Cretaceous,” the study abstract reads.

The study was published in the journal Science Advances.

The crab giant eyes probably contributed to the hunt on a smaller scale-during the swimming at the old Chalk-period oceans. “We don’t think they were filter feeders,” Luque said Live Science. “We think that they are actually active predators.”

C. perplexa was first discovered in 2005 in the Mountains of the Andes, along with other ancient shellfish, such as lobster and shrimp. Since then, Luque and a team of researchers analyzed the fossil (no larger than a quarter) in great detail and suggested that he spent his life swimming, in stark contrast with the modern, crabs, all their lives, crawling.


“We found dozens of animals, from small baby preparations, for mature persons in which we found female reproductive organs—a smoking gun that proves these were adult organisms and not the larvae. We can even see the individual facets on the large compound eyes of these animals,” Luque added in the statement. “It’s an incredible amount of detail, and we have been able to reconstruct them as they lived yesterday.”

Callichimaera perplexa: the oldest swimming crab from the dinosaur era. (Credit: Daniel Ocampo R., Vencejo Movies)

Luque said that it is not unusual to find different types in the older rocks, when life was still expanding into new forms.

“This discovery, from the mid-Cretaceous, illustrates that there are still surprising discoveries of more recent, foreign organisms waiting to be found, especially in the tropics,” he concluded. “It makes you wonder ‘what is there for us to discover?'”


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