Stranger Things from the Bottom of the Bay: Fossilized Crabs

Even after winter settles in our region, watermen steer their workboats towards Maryland’s wild oyster grounds. These men and women know to avoid muddy bottoms unsuitable for oysters, and instead, they seek rock and shell deposits. Crews use oyster dredges to gather oysters. As the dredge is pulled behind the boat, oysters tumble into the chain bag. The bag is pulled up frequently to sort and measure the catch. But oysters are not the only thing to cross watermen’s sorting tables. Fossils are often found off the Calvert geologic formation in the Chesapeake Bay. During the last oyster season, the crew of the Roughwater caught five fossilized crabs. At first, these fossils resembled a rock. After all, the top shell of a crab is smooth and has no easily distinguishable ridges. But a quick flip revealed the
partitioned body and recognizable apron that characterizes the crab as male or female. Because soft-bodied animals without a skeleton and teeth decay quickly, it is rare to find the fossilized remains of crabs. But there is no doubt these fossils are from the same species of crab found at crab houses throughout the Chesapeake Bay region.

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