Fossil Insects of the World - Crato formation, Brazil

Chapada-do-Araripe

The Crato Formation of Brazil is a world famous site for an incredible diversity of outstanding fossil insects, rare invertebrates including arachnids (spiders and scorpions, centipedes), amazing fish fossils (many preserved in concretions as complete three dimensional fish), plants and even pterosaurs!

Located about 500 kilometers inland from the coast, the Crato beds are exposed on the north and eastern parts of a flat plateau, the Chapada do Araripe, surrounded by the present day towns of Nova Olinda, Crato and Exu. 

Fossil insects are primarily found in the laminated limestones of the bottom section of the Crato Formation known as the Nova Olinda Member. They date back to the Lower Cretaceous about 112 million years ago (Late Aptian or Lower Albian).  

This was important time in the earth’s history – Gondwana was just in the process of separating to form the African and South America continents and the South Atlantic ocean was forming. It also corresponds to the rise of the flowering plants (angiosperms) and the co-evolution of all of the insects that pollinated the new flowers.

The common insects fossilized in the Crato beds include crickets and grasshoppers (Orthoptera), the ubiquitous cockroach (Blattaria) and the true bugs (Hemiptera), Certain groups of insects are rare in the formation including beetles and moths.

Many of the fossil insects of the Crato are preserved in goethite – hydrated iron oxide. Some of these fossils can be prepped by dissolving layers of the surrounding limestone with acetic acid (vinegar) to expose the exquisite details hidden with the rock.

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