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Oldest brain fossil discovered

The fossilized remains of a an ancient arthropod reveals the oldest brain ever preserved and shows it had an advanced brain, too.

On the fossilized remains of an arthropod, Fuxianhuia Protensa, there's a little red stain on the head; the oldest known fossilized remains of a brain. The creature, which was found in southwest China, breaks the record for providing the oldest brain remnants ever found, at 520-million years old.

The fossilized creature, with the red stain that used to be it's brain

The remains reveal some new and important findings; the creature had a three-part brain with a complex nervous system; evidence that such thing evolved into animal life much sooner than previously assumed. Modern day arthropods, such as insects, spiders and crabs, still have this same brain structure.

“It was very fascinating and very exciting,” says Nicholas Strausfeld, from the University of Arizona; coauthor of the study which disclosed the discoveries. “It suggests that the organization we see in the modern brains is very ancient.”

Previously, scientists had believed that early arthropods had a similar brain structure to brachiopods, such as fairy shrimp. Those creatures share a common ancestor to the arthropods, and have a two part brain with an extra nerve cluster near the stomach. Scientists concluded that sometime after the arthropods and brachiopods separated evolutionarily, the nerve cluster on arthropods climbed up to the brain and became a third section. As a result of the new findings, chances are the reverse happened – the somewhat simplistic lifestyle of brachiopods led to their brains de-evolving.

David F.
A grad student in experimental physics, David is fascinated by science, space and technology. When not buried in lecture books, he enjoys movies, gaming and mountainbiking

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