Friday, 27 September 2013

The world’s oldest face belongs to this 419 million-year-old fish

Scientists believe that a new fossil discovery from China is the world’s oldest known example of the bone structure we now recognize as a face.

The remarkably well-preserved fish (an example of the species Entelognathus primordialis) was discovered in Southeast China in a layer of sediment dating back to the Silurian period – making the specimen roughly 419 million years old.

Detailed in the journal Nature, the find is remarkable because it’s the earliest known example of the basic facial bone structure we recognize today: the ancient predator has a jaw, a mouth, two eyes and a nose.

All other previous finds from this geological time period have been of jawless fish – a type of animal that still exists today as lamprey and hagfish.

However, even stranger than looking eye to eye with the world’s oldest known face is the idea that this fossil might even be a director ancestor of human life.

The fossil is unique in that it displays characteristics of two types of ancient fish: placoderms (heavily armoured fish that were thought to have gone extinct millions of years ago) and bony fish (a taxonomic group that gave rise to all modern veterbrate fish - and subsequently amphibians, birds, mammals and finally us).

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