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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

520-Million-Year-Old Fossils in China Have Nerve and Verve

       The fossilized remains of Chengjiangocaris kunmingensis, a crustacean-like animal that lived 520 million years ago in what is now Xiaoshiba, China, were detailed in a paper published yesterday by researchers at the University of Cambridge.




      The species’s hard exoskeleton is well-preserved and its nervous system is outlined with such intricacy that individual nerves are distinguishable.

     


     Note that the animal’s ventral cord, the purplish line running down its center, above, is clearly visible. In addition, the tiny fibers that comprise the animal’s bundled ganglia are also detectable with precision instruments.

     This level of soft tissue preservation is rare, especially from the Cambrian period, when life on Earth first blossomed into the rich biodiversity we know today. But the Xiaoshiba fossil deposit, located in China’s Yunnan Province, is "chucky-jam full" of these Cambrian period fossils.




     Readers of PEOTS may remember our forays into the Kunming Karst topography of the Yunnan Province, including the limestone pillars from Kunming installed in a Denver, CO, USA, park.




      “Under normal circumstances it is extremely difficult to obtain preservation of soft tissues, as these decay rapidly and lose most of the morphological information,” according to study co-author Javier Ortega-HernĂ¡ndez, a research fellow at the University of Cambridge.

     “However, there are cases in which the environmental conditions are more prone to produce exceptional preservation,” he said. “These include when the animals are entombed rapidly by a large amount of fine sediment, and all of this occurs in an oxygen-depleted environment. This process helps to limit the extent of decay on the carcasses and may result in the superb preservation of delicate features such as the ventral nerve cord and other parts of the internal anatomy.”


     Studying this extinct animal’s nervous system demonstrated that some of the species’s modern relatives, like velvet worms, maintain a similar internal structure.




          "Others, like the nearly indestructible tardigrades (or water bears), have done away with the complex rubric of nerve fibers found in their Cambrian forebears, in favor of more minimalistic systems. These insights capture a broader evolutionary picture through the aperture of C. kunmingensis’s fossilized nerves."

How's your nerve and verve today?
Steph

22 comments:

  1. I have to admit my ignorance of the technical term, "chucky-jam full". I googled the expression, and found many examples of its use, in a variety of contexts, with no clear indication of its etymology.

    That must be some damn fine sediment over in Kunming, to allow that level of definition.

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    1. Always liked "chucky-jam full," a term my German paleontology professor used often.

      Damn fine, indeed, jan.

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    2. With a name like "chucky-jam full" -- it has to be good.

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    3. Paul, berry, berry good. . .

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  2. That velvet worm has verve. I believe the velvet worm must have been the inspiration for the Velvet Underground.

    Okay, let me get this straight... waterbears descended from forebears?

    The 520-million-year-old crustacean-like animal really is a fascinating find. It is about 52 million times more amazing than a numismatist who discovers a 1916 Lincoln Head penny in shiny mint pristine condition.

    LegoAndDidThePallBearsDescendFromTheBugBears?

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    1. Smooth, Lego. . .

      Bear-y good about the forebears, too.

      Hahahaha.

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  3. Very exciting! Drilling is planned into the crater which is linked to the massive dinosaur extinction.

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  4. OK, this probably doesn't belong here, but it's been a slow week. (I think we have noted AMSR at some point.)

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    1. Some folks have most unusual hobbies!

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    2. I'm sure it was only modesty that kept him from mentioning his ability to sense and navigate using the Earth's magnetic field.

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    3. So true. Speaking of genetics, was that a carrier pigeon? ;-)

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  5. Replies
    1. Before the widespread use of the Internet we Unix people used uucp to send email between computers, with a host!user (rather than user@host) syntax. (Actually, we would specify the complete path to the destination machine, e.g., host1!host2!host3!user.)

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    2. @ seems like an improvement over !, eh?!

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    3. Except when pronouncing it. I'll take "bang" over "at" anyday. (The address sequence above is known as a bang path.)

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    4. I'd agree. We had a bang! restaurant in Denver until last summer. No word if they will reopen as bang@.

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  6. We were talking about magnetism and about zebrafish, recently. . .

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  7. New post on "Diatom Beams: Naturally Strong Silicious Honeycomb Architecture Posts" is up. Enjoy!

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