|The fossil carapace of Mesoparapylocheles |
michaeljacksoni. The white scale bar at the
bottom indicates one millimetre
|Parapylocheles scorpio, the only living relative of the |
recently discovered Mesoparapylocheles michaeljacksoni
The fossiliferous rocks were situated in an abandoned limestone quarry near the town of Koskobilo in the Spanish province of Navarra. The team were led by Adiel Klompmaker from the Department of Biology at Kent State University. The rocks are the remains of a 100 million year old, Cretaceous era coral reef that once covered hundreds of square kilometres of ocean floor that would eventually become Spain. The rocks from the region contain a vast variety of corals and sea urchins. However there is also a wide variety of crabs.
The new partial fossil they discovered was small, less than a centimetre in length, consisting of a single thorax with no legs or tail. A comprehensive comparison with other known fossil crabs from the time did not bring up a match. Further analysis led the team to conclude that it was a new species: a hermit crab most closely related to Parapylocheles scorpio, a species of pylochelid crab. The only remaining question was what to call this new species.
Later that day, the team were meeting in a restaurant in the city of Alsasua. They saw on TV that the pop legend Michael Jackson had died the same day. They decided to name the new crab in his memory, deciding upon Mesoparapylocheles michaeljacksoni. The discovery is a rare one as hermit crabs can only be distinguished from true crabs by a part of the shell known as the shield. Less than 12 have been discovered world wide, meaning that a great deal of their evolutionary history is unknown.