Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Dinosaur, crab fossils reveal ecosystem secrets

11.03.2003


This well-preserved fossil of a crab was found within inches of a dinosaur tail in Egypt’s Bahariya Oasis, the first evidence in literature of the two found together. The find helps piece together what ancient envrionments might have been like


For centuries, they wouldn’t be caught dead next to each other.

But now a team of geologists directed by Joshua Smith, Ph.D., assistant professor of earth and planetary sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, have found a well-preserved fossil of a crab within inches of a tail vertebra from a massive plant-eating dinosaur.

This well-preserved fossil of a crab was found within inches of a dinosaur tail in Egypt’s Bahariya Oasis, the first evidence in literature of the two found together. The find helps piece together what ancient envrionments might have been like.


The find, in Egypt’s Bahariya Oasis, is the first instance of a crab fossil found with a dinosaur fossil. It reveals much about both species and the kind of ecosystem where the fossils were found, thought to be a predator-rich mangrove setting dominated by tree ferns and other coastal plants, similar to Florida’s swampy Everglades. The rocks containing these fossils are about 94 million years old, which means they date back to the Cretaceous Period, which lasted from 130-65 million years.

"The two normally don’t hang with each other, or they are at least not commonly discovered together," said Smith, of crabs and dinosaurs. Smith made international news in 2001 when he and collaborators published results of their discovery of the second most massive dinosaur ever unearthed, Paralititan stromeri, in the same part of the Bahariya Oasis. "There have been anecdotal mentions of crabs with dinosaurs, but those remains turned out to be lobsters or ghost shrimp. Even if the time gap between the two is thousands of years, we have visual proof of these two coexisting together. This is a nice surprise. It fills in more about this kind of ecosystem."

The results are in a paper that will be published later this year in the Journal of Paleontology.

Smith and collaborators from the University of Pennsylvania, the Cairo Geological Museum, and Drexel University discovered the fossils in 2001, on an expedition for dinosaur bones. They found a dinosaur tailbone, fossil plants and the crab, all within a foot-and-a-half of each other. Because there have been informal (though never published in peer-review journals) mentions of crabs being part of ecosystems where dinosaur bones have been found, and more importantly because he isn’t qualified to describe a crab, Smith wanted to clarify and sought geologist Carrie E. Schweitzer, Ph.D., of the Kent State University Department of Geology.

"As far as we can tell from the literature, this is the first confirmed notice of a crab associated with a dinosaur," said Schweitzer, who is the lead author on the crab paper. "The find is significant because it permits paleontologists to frame a very diverse -- and thus much more accurate -- description of what these ancient environments would have looked like.

"The deposits that enclose the dinosaur and the crab also contain crocodile-like animals, various invertebrates, fish, sharks, plesiosaurs, a kind of reptile, and turtles as well as plant material. Thus, we have a very complete idea of what types of organisms comprised the ecosystem."

Crabs, "brachyuran decapods" in technical jargon, from coastal habitats are uncommon in the fossil record because their remains rapidly disintegrate, either from decomposition or scavenging by other predators. The geologists think that the crabs of the Bahariya Formation probably were scavengers that fed on vegetation and other organic material. They were a possible food source for fish and other vertebrates and invertebrates in the ecosystem.

Smith speculates that it is possible that small or baby dinosaurs might have fed on the crabs, but said speculation is the most he can do.

"This would have been a very productive place biologically, for crabs, they would have been very happy here," Smith said. "Almost everything we’re finding at the site is a predator. I could see a baby Spinosaurus picking up mangrove crabs, but it’s all speculation because we have no solid proof of what dinosaurs ate."

Tony Fitzpatrick | Washington University in St. Lou
Further information:
http://dept.kent.edu/geology/people/schweitzer.html
http://www.egyptdinos.org/
http://news-info.wustl.edu/tips/2003/science-tech/smith.html

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology
22.06.2017 | Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

nachricht How reliable are shells as climate archives?
21.06.2017 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

Im Focus: Optoelectronic Inline Measurement – Accurate to the Nanometer

Germany counts high-precision manufacturing processes among its advantages as a location. It’s not just the aerospace and automotive industries that require almost waste-free, high-precision manufacturing to provide an efficient way of testing the shape and orientation tolerances of products. Since current inline measurement technology not yet provides the required accuracy, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is collaborating with four renowned industry partners in the INSPIRE project to develop inline sensors with a new accuracy class. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the project is scheduled to run until the end of 2019.

New Manufacturing Technologies for New Products

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation

22.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Plant inspiration could lead to flexible electronics

22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences

A rhodium-based catalyst for making organosilicon using less precious metal

22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>