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 Did marine sponges trigger the ‘Cambrian explosion’ through ‘ecosystem engineering’?
21.09.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam - Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ

nachricht The Wadden Sea and the Elbe Studied with Zeppelin, Drones and Research Ships
19.09.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht - Zentrum für Material- und Küstenforschung

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

Im Focus: Fast, convenient & standardized: New lab innovation for automated tissue engineering & drug

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Glycosylation: Mapping Uncharted Territory

21.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

21.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

Did marine sponges trigger the ‘Cambrian explosion’ through ‘ecosystem engineering’?

21.09.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>