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 Multi-year submarine-canyon study challenges textbook theories about turbidity currents
12.12.2017 | Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

nachricht How do megacities impact coastal seas? Searching for evidence in Chinese marginal seas
11.12.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Plasmonic biosensors enable development of new easy-to-use health tests

14.12.2017 | Health and Medicine

New type of smart windows use liquid to switch from clear to reflective

14.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

BigH1 -- The key histone for male fertility

14.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>