An amateur paleontologist in New Zealand is finding 12-million-year-old crabs on a beach in Christchurch. But you wouldn’t think they were crabs at first glance. That’s because the ancient crabs are hiding inside rocks that look more like giant pebbles or boulders than fossils.
Using specialized tools, Morne (who goes by Mamlambo on YouTube) chisels away at the stone until he reveals the crab’s claws and top shell.
Morne uses an air scribe to remove the rock to show the fossil crab hidden inside. This particular one took about 10 hours to reveal. Morne has found several of the crab fossils while beach-combing, which he identifies as Tumidocarcinus giganteus from the mid-Miocene period.
Not all are so small. A few years ago he found a 50 pound fossil crab concretion. He had kept it for 2 years before attempting to unveil it as he finally felt up to the task.
“I was starting to feel confident in my crab prepping skills, so I decided to make a start on the best fossil crab I have found so far,” he writes on his YouTube channel.
This video went viral.
“It started off badly as I prepped the bottom of the crab first and had to start over again on the other side of the concretion,” Morne says of his attempt. “I was using a combination of an angle grinder and a chisel to remove the bulk of the rock but it was very slow going. Luckily, my large air scribe, the Motovator, arrived and made a HUGE difference. It removes about ten times as much rock as my other scribe does in the same time.”
He spent over 250 hours on the project (including editing the video footage). He says he’s often asked what is the value of the crab once it’s been prepped.
“People always ask what the value of this crab would be and the short answer is that the value is the labour you put in. Unprepped crabs aren’t worth much – 95% of the value is in the hours you spend prepping it with specialised equipment,” Morne writes.
It’s really a passion project for Morne given the time he spends on it. Morne (Mamlambo on YouTube) followed up his 50-pound fossil crab find by giving viewers some “insider’s knowledge” on how he knew the rocks on the beach were fossils. And just how did the crab get in the rock? And why is it in such good condition?
Answers to these questions are in the video below.