Scientists hit A Nerve


This week, scientists announced they uncovered a very special fossil specimen! This fossil holds the remains of a 520 million-year-old arthropod, and is so well preserved that the critter’s nervous system is visible! The nervous system is what connects our brain to the rest of our bodies, and controls both our voluntary and involuntary actions. This spectacular arthropod is Chengjiangocaris kunmingensis, a relative of modern spiders and insects, and was unearthed in China. After some careful imaging the scientists identified a rope-like structure running down the critter’s body that appeared to be its nerve cord! (The nerve cord is the equivalent of a human spinal cord.) This nerve cord would have controlled bundles of itty-bitty legs, and allowed the arthropod to crawl around much like today’s insects. This is an exciting discovery because it is rare to find soft tissues so well preserved as a fossil; and scientists are able to learn a great deal about the evolution of the nervous system by examining these rare specimens. It is amazing we can still learn from creatures millions and millions of years after their death!

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March 3, 2016

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