500-Million-Year-Old Sea Creature Unearthed - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

500-Million-Year-Old Sea Creature Unearthed

Posted: Updated:

Scientists have unearthed extraordinarily preserved fossils of a 520-million-year-old sea creature, one of the earliest animal fossils ever found, according to a new study.

The fossilized animal, an arthropod called a fuxhianhuiid, has primitive limbs under its head, as well as the earliest example of a nervous system that extended past the head. The primitive creature may have used the limbs to push food into its mouth as it crept across the seafloor. The limbs may shed light on the evolutionary history of arthropods, which include crustaceans and insects."

Since biologists rely heavily on organization of head appendages to classify arthropod groups, such as insects and spiders, our study provides a crucial reference point for reconstructing the evolutionary history and relationships of the most diverse and abundant animals on Earth," said study co-author Javier Ortega-Hernández, an earth scientist at the University of Cambridge, in a statement. "This is as early as we can currently see into arthropod limb development."

The findings were published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Primordial animal

The fuxhianhuiid lived nearly 50 million years before animals first emerged from the sea onto land, during the early part of the Cambrian explosion, when simple multicellular organisms rapidly evolved into complex sea life.

While paleontologists have unearthed previous examples of a fuxhianhuiid before, the fossils were all found in the head-down position, with their delicate internal organs obscured by a large carapace or shell.

However, when Ortega-Hernández and his colleagues began excavating in a fossil-rich region of southwest China around Kunming called Xiaoshiba, they unearthed several specimens of fuxhianhuiid where the bodies had been flipped before fossilization. All told, the team unearthed an amazingly preserved arthropod, as well as eight additional specimens.

These primeval creatures probably spent most of their days crawling across the seabed trawling for food and may have also been able to swim short distances. The sea creatures, some of the earliest arthropods or jointed animals, probably evolved from worms with legs.

The discovery sheds light on how some of the earliest ancestors of today's animals may have evolved.

"These fossils are our best window to see the most primitive state of animals as we know them – including us," Ortega-Hernández said in a statement. "Before that there is no clear indication in the fossil record of whether something was an animal or a plant – but we are still filling in the details, of which this is an important one."

By: Tia Ghose LiveScience (Via NBC News)

  • National NewsMore>>

  • Wife: Robin Williams had early stages of Parkinson's Disease at time of death

    Wife: Robin Williams had early stages of Parkinson's Disease at time of death

    Thursday, August 14 2014 3:26 PM EDT2014-08-14 19:26:01 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Actor and comedian Robin Williams was sober but struggling with the early stages of Parkinson's Disease at the time of his death, according to his wife. Williams' wife released the following statement Thursday:More >>
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Actor and comedian Robin Williams was sober but struggling with the early stages of Parkinson's Disease at the time of his death, according to his wife. Williams' wife released the following statement Thursday:More >>
  • Passenger plane crashes in Iran

    Passenger plane crashes in Iran

    Sunday, August 10 2014 2:15 AM EDT2014-08-10 06:15:55 GMT
    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - State television in Iran is reporting that a small passenger plane has crashed into a residential complex in the capital, Tehran. There was no immediate word on casualties from the crash Sunday.State TV reported that a Taban Air plane crashed while taking off from an airport west of Tehran. More >>
    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - State television in Iran is reporting that a small passenger plane has crashed into a residential complex in the capital, Tehran. There was no immediate word on casualties from the crash Sunday.State TV reported that a Taban Air plane crashed while taking off from an airport west of Tehran. More >>
  • General is highest ranking Army officer killed in Iraq or Afghanistan

    General is highest ranking Army officer killed in Iraq or Afghanistan

    Tuesday, August 5 2014 5:00 PM EDT2014-08-05 21:00:13 GMT
    WASHINGTON (AP) - An American general has become the highest-ranking U.S. Army officer to be killed in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. More >>
    WASHINGTON (AP) - An American general has become the highest-ranking U.S. Army officer to be killed in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. A Pentagon spokesman says the general was killed in an apparent insider attack today by a member of the Afghan security forces. The shooting wounded another 15 people, about half of them Americans.More >>
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KHQ. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.