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Disappearance of highly adaptable crabs puzzles scientists

August 13, 2007

Disappearance of highly adaptable crabs puzzles scientists

Crustacea has been one of the most successful animal groups in Natural History, being Decapoda one of the most biodiverse orders

Crustacea has been one of the most successful animal groups in Natural History, being Decapoda one of the most biodiverse orders. Crabs appeared in the Early Jurassic (190 m.y.) and, since then, they have been of high environmental importance, given their capacity to adapt to almost any kind of ecosystem.

Javier Luque, from Universidad Nacional de Colombia carries out a project to study fossil crabs and shrimps from the Upper Cretaceous along a 4000-kilometer band in Colombia. Fossils of this fauna has also been found in Germany, United States and Mexico. In such a way, several questions regarding their widespread disappearance are to be assessed.

Was a climatic change the responsible of this massive mortality, or were the toxic elements that resulted from volcanic activity?

Another point of interest is the fact that we are working with the first Paleocene crabs reported for Colombia and some Miocene groups recovered recently in the Panama Canal area (Calappidae, Portunidae, Hexapodidae, Parthenopidae), which will allow Luque and collaborators at STRI's Center for Tropical Paleoecology and Archaeology, to compare Neotropical fossil and extant decapoda faunas, in order to assess paleobiogeographical questions.

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