Scientists have uncovered the remains of several new species of crustaceans that have been dated back to ancient times. Experts say some of the fossils recently found in a Northern Spain reef include crustacean remains that are estimated to date back 100 million years.
This remarkable discovery includes spider crabs, which scientists have designated to be the oldest known of its species. According to Live Science, the fossils were found in the abandoned Spanish Koskobilo quarry, along with the remains of other crustaceans.
Previous discoveries had uncovered some ancient spider crabs, but these newly found ones, named Cretamaja granulata and Koskobilius postangustus, appear to be even older.
"The previous oldest one was from France and is some millions of years younger," study author Adiël Klompmaker, a postdoctoral researcher at the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida, told LiveScience. "So this discovery in Spain in quite impressive and pushes back the origin of spider crabs as known from fossils."
The study's researchers indicated that the ancient reef where these remarkable finds were made appears to have disappeared not too long after the time during which the spider crabs lived.
"Something must have happened in the environment that caused reefs in the area to vanish, and with it, probably many of the decapods that were living in these reefs," Klompmaker said. "Not many decapods are known from the time after the reefs disappeared in the area."
The Live Science report goes on to detail Klompmaker's and his colleagues' other findings, noting that the ancient Koskobilo quarry contained dozens of species, current count is at 36. These findings make it a largely diverse population for these ancient decapods that lived in this particular environment during the Cretaceous period. The decapods include the crabs, along with species of shrimp, and lobsters.
Essentially, ancient crustaceans had their own community, where they ate, mated and took to for shelter, said scientists.
"One of the main results of this research is that decapod crustaceans are really abundant in reefs in the Cretaceous," Klompmaker wrote in an email to Live Science. "The presence of corals seemed to promote decapod biodiversity as early as 100 million years ago and may have served as nurseries for speciation."
Inquisitr reported (via Futurity) that this discovery could provide insight into the species that live in the modern day, including what factors impact reef decline.
The full study on the 100-million-year old crabs, and the other species found, will be detailed in an upcoming issue of the journal Cretaceous Research.