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Revista mexicana de ciencias geológicas

versión On-line ISSN 2007-2902versión impresa ISSN 1026-8774

Rev. mex. cienc. geol vol.23 no.3 Ciudad de México ene. 2006


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Synopsis of Cenozoic decapod crustaceans from Belgium


Barry W. M. van Bakel1, Rene H. B. Fraaije2, and John W. M. Jagt3


1 Oertijdmuseum De Groene Poort, Bosscheweg 80, NL–5283 WB Boxtel, The Netherlands.

2 Oertijdmuseum De Groene Poort, Bosscheweg 80, NL–5283 WB Boxtel, The Netherlands.

3 Natuurhistorisch Museum Maastricht, de Bosquetplein 6–7, NL–6211 KJ Maastricht, The Netherlands.


Manuscript received: September 3, 2005
Corrected manuscript received: January 14, 2006
Manuscript accepted: February 23, 2006



Decapod crustaceans are fairly common in Cenozoic strata of northwestern and southern Belgium. In this work, the stratigraphic distribution of all known species is summarized.

Key words: Crustacea, Decapoda, Cenozoic, Belgium.



Los crustáceos decápodos son comunes en estratos cenozoicos del noroeste y sur de Bélgica. En este trabajo se resume la distribución estratigráfica de todas las especies conocidas.

Palabras clave: Crustacea, Decapoda, Cenozoico, Bélgica.



Van Straelen (1921) provided a list of all decapod crustaceans then known from Cenozoic deposits of Belgium (Table 1). His collection of fossil Crustacea is stored at the Instituí Royal des Sciences Naturelles de Belgique (IRScNB, Brussels), but needs to be reviewed (Feldmann and Dhondt, 1991).

The purpose of this contribution is to provide an updated list of all Paleogene and Neogene decapod crustaceans from Belgium known to date. Thirty–five species, in thirty–one genera are currently recorded. These decapods comprise one palinuroid, one nephropid, seven thalassinoids and twenty–six brachyurans (Table 2).




Eocene strata are widely distributed in central and southern Belgium. Collins and Smith (1993) described the new calappid Silvacarcinus laurae associated with the raninid Raninoides glabra (Woodward, 1871) from the Ypresian at Forest (Brussels). A second assemblage of Ypresian age is known from Marke near Kortrijk (southern Belgium). Zanthopsis cf. leachii (Desmarest, 1822) is common at this locality, with rarer occurrences of the spear lobster Linuparus scyllariformis (Bell, 1857). The most diverse Ypresian assemblage is known from clays at Egem, including L. scyllariformis, Glyphithyreus wetherelli (Bell, 1858) (Figure 1.4), and undescribed species of Upogebia and Retropluma. In addition, a single carapace of Goniochele, possibly G. angulata Bell, 1858 has recently been discovered.

Possibly new species of Pagurus and Stevea are found in Middle Eocene (Ledian) deposits near Balegem, while Lutetian strata temporarily accessible at Zaventem airport (Brussels) have yielded several specimens of Harpactocarcinus punctulatus (Desmarest, 1822).

Cenozoic decapod crustaceans listed by van Straelen in 1921 correspond chiefly to species of Eocene age. Of these, four have been verified on the basis of available material (Table 2). Of the remaining taxa, five were first described from outside Belgium. Occurrences of'Zanthopsis have been lumped by us under the name of Zanthopsis cf. leachii (Figure 1.3). Van Straelen (1921) also listed Z. bispinosa M'Coy, 1849 and Z. unispinosa M'Coy, 1849, but we have not yet verified the validity of these species. Three other taxa, Hoploparia gammaroides M'Coy, 1849, Xanthilites bowerbanki Bell, 1858 and Portunites incerta Bell, 1858, are expected to occur at Egem.

Unnamed species of Callianassa, Calappa, Palaeocarpilius and Etisus, all from 'Bruxellian' strata in the Brussels area, were noted by Le Hon (1862), while Hoploparia cometí van Straelen, 1920 and Cancer burtini Galeotti, 1837 definitely are from Belgium and may in fact be endemic, but the current whereabouts of the types (or additional material for that matter) is unknown to us.


Brachyuran faunas of Oligocene age are dominated by Coeloma (Paracoeloma) rupeliense Stainier, 1887. Numerous well–preserved specimens in concretions are known from the Boom area (Feldmann and Dhondt, 1991; Verheyden, 2002). Associated are much rarer remains of a large lobster, Homaruspercyi van Beneden, 1872. Coeloma (P.) rupeliense has also been recorded from reworked nodules in post–Miocene transgressive deposits at Kallo (Antwerpen area). Claws of a new hermit crab, Ciliopagurus obesus, have been recently documented by van Bakel et al. (2003b) from Rupelian strata at Sint–Niklaas; these claws show a characteristic stridulatory apparatus (Figure 1.1). A single, small specimen of dromiid crab from the same locality and strata is currently under study; it appears to be close to Dromia eotvoesi Miiller, 1976 from the Miocene of Hungary (Miiller, 1984).


As for Eocene and Oligocene assemblages, Miocene strata have also yielded a dominant crab fauna; numerous well–preserved specimens of Tasadia carniolica (Bittner, 1884) have been collected, associated with much rarer material of Mursia lienharti (Bachmayer, 1962) (Janssen and Miiller, 1984). In contrast to Eocene and Oligocene faunas, dominated by specimens of different sizes of Zanthopsis and Coeloma respectively, the Miocene assemblage of Tasadia consists of remarkably equally sized individuals. Other growth stages and sizes appear to be missing, suggesting juveniles inhabited shallower water. The main locality to have furnished T. carniolica is now a rubbish tip. A few specimens of this species have recently been collected at Berlaar. A second, much larger cancroid represented by a single decorticated carapace was collected from Borgerhout (Antwerpen ring road). It most likely represents Glebocarcinus, characterised by distinctly swollen protogastric regions.


Van Bakel et al. (2000, 2004) described assemblages from Kallo (Antwerpen area), of Piacenzian age, comparable to extant faunas from the North Sea. Small–sized specimens were obtained by carefully emptying infill of large gastropod shells (Figure 1.5). Larger specimens, such as the cancroids Cancer cf. pagurus Linnaeus, 1758, Metacarcinus tenax van Bakel et al., 2004 (Figure 1.6) and a well–preserved corpse of the spider crab Maja squinado (Herbst, 1788), were obtained by screening the wind–blown surfaces of foundation pits in dock works.

A review of recently collected specimens of Corystes holsaticus (Noetling, 1881) has shown that Micromithrax Noetling, 1881 is a junior synonym of Corystes Latreille, 1802. Recently, the new species Cancer vancalsteri has been described by van Bakel et al. (2003a) from Oelegem, dated as Pliocene on the associated molluscanfaunule. Apossibly new species of Axius from Emblem (east of Antwerpen) is under study (Figure 1.2).



We thank L. Anthonis, F. van Calster, Y. Christiaens, L. De Coninck, J. Herman, A. Iserbyt, T. Lambrechts, R. Meuris, F. Moflen, E. Wille and F. Smet for their enthusiastic collecting and donation of material over the years.



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