Amber fossils provide snapshots of the anatomy, biology, and ecology of extinct organisms that are otherwise inaccessible. The best-known fossils in amber are terrestrial arthropods—principally insects—whereas aquatic organisms are rarely represented. Here, we present the first record of true crabs (Brachyura) in amber—from the Cretaceous of Myanmar [~100 to 99 million years (Ma)]. The new fossil preserves large compound eyes, delicate mouthparts, and even gills. This modern-looking crab is nested within crown Eubrachyura, or “higher” true crabs, which includes the majority of brachyuran species living today. The fossil appears to have been trapped in a brackish or freshwater setting near a coastal to fluvio-estuarine environment, bridging the gap between the predicted molecular divergence of nonmarine crabs (~130 Ma) and their younger fossil record (latest Cretaceous and Paleogene, ~75 to 50 Ma) while providing a reliable calibration point for molecular divergence time estimates for higher crown eubrachyurans.
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Luque, J., Xing, L., Briggs, D. E. G., Clark, E. G., Duque, A., Hui, J., Mai, H., & McKellar, R. (2021, October 20). Crab in amber reveals an early colonization of nonmarine environments during the Cretaceous. Science Advances, 7(43), 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abj5689