Swiss Journal of Geosciences

, Volume 104, Supplement 1, pp 85-98

First online:

The importance of lithographic limestones for revealing ontogenies in fossil crustaceans

  • Joachim T. HaugAffiliated withBiosystematic Documentation, University of Ulm Email author 
  • , Carolin HaugAffiliated withBiosystematic Documentation, University of Ulm
  • , Dieter WaloszekAffiliated withBiosystematic Documentation, University of Ulm
  • , Günter SchweigertAffiliated withStaatliches Museum für Naturkunde Stuttgart

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Developmental biology has become a major issue for understanding the evolution of Arthropoda. While usually only the ontogenies of extant species are studied, developmental information of fossil arthropods may exhibit developmental patterns not present in living ones. Crustacea possess, basically, a more gradual development than, for example, pterygote insects and would, therefore, be appropriate candidates for the study of fossil ontogenies. Remarkably, famous fossil deposits like the Devonian Rhynie Chert or the Early Palaeozoic ‘Orsten’-type deposits do not comprise the generally macroscopic malacostracan Crustacea (although most probably adult malacostracan fossils have already been found in the Cambrian). By contrast, the Late Jurassic Solnhofen Lithographic Limestones of southern Germany provide thousands of specimens (although only few morphotypes) that can be identified as malacostracan larvae, together with juvenile specimens differing in certain morphological aspects from their conspecific adults. More recent investigations with up-to-date imaging methodology on additional malacostracan crustacean larvae yielded also reconstructible developmental sequences of species from the Solnhofen deposits. The very similar fossil deposits of the Cretaceous lithographic limestones of Lebanon have also yielded malacostracan larvae and juvenile specimens. We present a summary of the occurrences of crustacean fossils providing developmental information and a demonstration of the potential of the lithographic limestones in this context. The importance of developmental data for understanding crustacean evolution is also highlighted.


Larvae Phyllosoma Solnhofen Lithographic Limestones Ontogenetic development Phylogeny Evolution