Date:

Prehistoric fish fills 100 million year gap in evolution of the skull

- Advertisement -

A recent study has uncovered an intriguing perspective on the evolution of brain protection in vertebrates, thanks to the discovery of a 455-million-year-old fossil fish.

Published in Nature on Wednesday, September 20th, the paper was a collaborative effort among researchers from the University of Birmingham, Naturalis Biodiversity Centre in Leiden, Netherlands, and the Natural History Museum. Their focus centered on reconstructing the skull of Eriptychius americanus.

Funded by the Leverhulme Trust, the study proposes that this ancient jawless fish, unearthed from deposits in Colorado, USA, possesses a skull structure unlike any previously observed. It fills a critical gap spanning a staggering 100 million years in the evolutionary timeline of vertebrate skull development.

Employing computed tomography, a type of x-ray technique, scientists generated a detailed 3D model of Eriptychius’s skull. This marks the first comprehensive recreation of the specimen, originally collected in the 1940s, described in the 1960s, and currently housed in the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.

What sets this ancient fish apart is its distinct cranial makeup: it boasts separate, autonomous cartilages enclosing the brain, a departure from the solid bone or cartilage structures observed in both earlier and later jawless and jawed fish.

- Advertisement -

While subsequent species exhibit a fully connected cartilaginous framework safeguarding the brain, these findings hint that the initial development of mechanisms to segregate the brain from other cranial components might have commenced with Eriptychius.

Dr Ivan Sansom, Senior Lecturer in Palaeobiology at the University of Birmingham and senior author of the paper said:

“These are tremendously exciting results that may reveal the early evolutionary history of how primitive vertebrates protected their brains. Eriptychius americanus appears to be the first evidence for a series of cartilages separating the brain from the rest of the head. This study emphasises the importance of museum collections and the application of new techniques in studying them.”

Dr Richard Dearden, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Palaeobiology at Naturalis Biodiversity Center and lead author of the paper said:

“On the face of it Eriptychius is not the most beautiful of fossils. However, by using modern imaging techniques we were able to show that it preserves something unique: the oldest three-dimensionally preserved vertebrate head in the fossil record. This fills a major gap in our understanding of the evolution of the skull of all vertebrates, ultimately including humans.”

Header Image Credit : Field Museum of Natural History and Ivan Samson.

DinosaurDaily
DinosaurDaily
"DinosaurDaily" is your premier destination for the latest and most fascinating updates in paleontology, specifically centered around the captivating world of dinosaurs. Immerse yourself in a rich tapestry of news articles, insightful features, and captivating discoveries brought to you by leading experts and researchers in the field.

Mobile Application

spot_img

Related Articles

First discovery of a tyrannosaur skeleton with well-preserved stomach contents

The Tyrannosauridae family, colossal carnivorous dinosaurs reigning over terrestrial ecosystems around 80-66 million years ago during the Late...

Insects already had a variety of defense strategies in the Cretaceous

Examinations of amber have revealed that insect larvae had already developed a diverse array of defensive tactics to shield themselves from predators 100 million years ago.

Flowers were more diverse 100 million years ago

A group of international researchers, including botanists from the University of Vienna, Austria, has conducted a comprehensive analysis of fossilized flowers, comparing their morphological variety with that of present-day species.

Extinct marine creatures hidden in Thai sanctuary

Ten previously undiscovered species of trilobites, concealed for approximately 490 million years within an under-explored area of Thailand, may represent crucial elements in unraveling the complex puzzle of ancient world geography.

Researchers discover a new marine reptile that lived about 250 million years ago

A joint scientific team from Poland and China documented a new marine reptile that thrived approximately 250 million years ago in present-day China.

Researchers explain the coexistence of animal and plant forms from approximately 427 million years ago

Scholars from the University of Warsaw and the Polish Academy of Sciences elucidated the enigmatic coexistence of animal and plant life forms within the coastal sea shallows around 427 million years ago.

Pliosaurs were larger much earlier than previously thought

Pliosaurs, a subset within the plesiosaur group, were found to attain remarkable sizes far earlier than previously believed, as indicated by research conducted by an international team, including a scientist affiliated with the Polish Academy of Sciences. This discovery provides new insights into the evolutionary trajectory of these formidable oceanic predators.

Microfossils discovered by University of Leicester scientist date back half a billion years

A recent discovery by a University of Leicester scientist has unveiled a novel fossil type shedding light on...