Friday, 15 November 2013

Crazy Cretaceous Find: Intersex Crabs

DENVER — It's a crustacean conundrum: Why did some Cretaceous crabs sport both male and female characteristics?

The answer is unknown, but new fossil discoveries reveal that intersex crabs were a small but persistent part of the population in South Dakota during the Cretaceous Period — and a parasitic barnacle may have been to blame.

The fossils, excavated in South Dakota shale, are of Dakoticancer overanus, a quarter-size crab that lived about 68 million years ago. At the time, North America was split in half by the Western Interior Seaway, a shallow sea that harbored strange creatures like the toothy mosasaur, an apex predator that evolved from land-living lizards.

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