Rock & Gem

The “Eyes” Have It!


A 95-million-year-old fossil crab discovered in rocks of central Columbia may be small, but it enjoyed supersized vision according to a paper by paleontolo­gists Kelsey M. Jenkins, Derek E.G. Briggs, and Javier Luque (all of Yale University) in the journal iScience. In fact, per Jenkins, this creature sported eyes “like no other crab.”

Whereas most contempora­ry crabs have stalked eyes with rather poor vision and scuttle along the sea bottom or beaches to scavenge for scraps, this crab appears to have been fully aquatic and a voracious predator. Less than an inch in diameter, this little critter from the Cretaceous Period sported unusually huge bulbous compound eyes giving it sharp vision that made it eŒffective in chasing down prey with its streamline­d body and paddle-like legs.

Just how large were the eyes? They took up 16 percent of the crab’s overall body mass. Per an article by Asher Elbein in Science Times, that would be “the equivalent of a person walking around with eyes the size of soccer balls.” This odd state of affairs, along with its paddles and streamline­d body, are what led to its scientific name of Callichima­era perplexa, which roughly translates to “beautiful and intricatel­y perplexing chimeric creature.”

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