Thursday, 7 May 2015

Fossilized Brains Shed Light on Arthropod Family Tree

by Laura Geggel, Staff Writer | May 07, 2015 03:14pm ET

The shiny, fossilized brains of two ancient sea-monsterlike creatures are helping researchers understand how the ancestors of modern-day arthropods, such as scorpions and lobsters, evolved, as shown in a new study.

The new research focuses on an oval structure, called the anterior sclerite, found in the heads of ancient arthropods. The anterior sclerite has long baffled researchers, especially because some prehistoric arthropods have it while others don't, and its location in the head changes, depending on the quality of the fossil.

But now, fossilized brains have helped solve that mystery. An analysis of the anterior sclerites in two arthropod fossils, both more than 500 million years old, indicates that the structures were associated with the creatures' bulbous eyes. The findings provide evidence that these oval structures were associated with nerves originating in the anterior region of the brain, according to the study. 

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