Closing a major gap in mantis shrimp evolution - first fossils of Stomatopoda from the Triassic


Authors: Smith CPA, Aubier P, Charbonnier S, Laville T, Olivier N, Escarguel G, Jenks JF, Bylund KG, Fara E, Brayard A

Published in: Bulletin of Geosciences, volume 98, issue 1; pages: 95 - 110; Received 7 July 2022; Accepted in revised form 26 February 2023; Online 31 March 2023

Keywords: Hoplocarida, Triassosculda ahyongi gen. et sp. nov., phylogeny, early Spathian, Paris Biota, USA,

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Mantis shrimps (Stomatopoda) are marine benthic predators well known for their raptorial claws that have, through time, evolved into unique structures with exceptional stunning, piercing or even dismembering functions. Known since the Carboniferous, Stomatopoda fossils have started providing insights into the rise of these predators, however, major gaps in the fossil record remain. In particular, neither Permian, nor Triassic specimens have ever been uncovered. Such a long hiatus strongly hinders our understanding of their evolutionary history, especially regarding the transition between Palaeozoic and Mesozoic forms. We here report two mantis shrimp specimens from the Early Triassic Paris Biota of Idaho, USA, formally described as Triassosculda ahyongi gen. et sp. nov., partially closing an over 100 myr gap in the fossil record. Despite being incomplete, these specimens present distinct and well-preserved diagnostic characters on the posterior trunk and the tail fan. The telson shows a triangular shape closely resembling that of Palaeozoic mantis shrimps. The broadness of both the pleon and anterior rim of the telson, however, differs from that of most Palaeozoic forms, which have an overall narrow telson, and is more similar to that of modern representatives of Stomatopoda. Additionally, the uropodal exopods of Triassosculda ahyongi gen. et sp. nov. presents a considerable number of movable spines that are common among Jurassic and more recent taxa, but that have never been reported among Palaeozoic Stomatopoda. These features further support and above all, allow temporal refinement of previously suggested evolutionary scenarios. In the latter, and as for other major clades of crustaceans, Stomatopoda are assumed to have evolved from a shrimp-like morphology with a narrow triangular telson to a more lobster-like one with a broad and rather square-shaped telson. Triassosculda ahyongi gen. et sp. nov. indicates this transition was underway by the Early Triassic.