When researchers find fossils of species that are new to science, it is quite natural that they try to find a place for them in the giant tree of life by combining them with similar species that can even exist today. The newly discovered form of an ancient being pushes this practice to its absolute limit.
The small fossils, discovered both in Colombia and the United States, reveal the existence of a moth-sized beast that lived about 90 million years ago. It's called cancer, but the researchers who discovered it are quick to say how drastically different from all other known crab species.
The species is so strange, in fact, that its discoverers offer a nod to its strange nature in its name. Small cancer is baptized Callichimaera perplexa and, as the name suggests, his discovery is quite confusing to the scientists.
With curved, swinging legs for swimming and a pair of huge, all-seeing eyes, dotted with his sharp face, he was built like no other cancer in the fossil record. It is unique not only because of the strange features that boast, but also because of the common features of crabs that are completely lacking.
"Callichimaera perplexa is so unique and strange that it can be considered a pigeon in the crab world, "Yale said in a statement. "She suggests how the new forms develop and they become so incompatible over time. We usually think of crabs as large animals with wide pancakes, strong nails, small eyes in long eyes and a small tail under the body. Well, Callichimaera does not lend itself to all these "repulsive" traits and forces us to rethink our definition of what cancer cancer does. "
This is a fantastic discovery that reminds us that no matter how varied is the life of today's Earth, the history of our planet is filled with stranger evolutionary forts than we can imagine.