Tech UPTechnologyThey discover the oldest brain in the world

They discover the oldest brain in the world

Image credit: Rebecca Gelernter.

Sheltered for 540 million years, the fossil remains of a marine predator brain are helping scientists understand how the brain, the most complex organ of animals, including humans, evolved.

The creature to which the remains belong, the oval-shaped Kerygmachela kierkegaardi , with two long appendages on its head and 11 pairs of fins, which it used to search for prey.

The creature is not new to scientists, but it is the first time such ancient remains of an animal brain have been found.

The organ in question was about 10 inches long, according to the findings. And unlike the human brain, which is divided into three segments, the fossilized brain of this predator was simple, with only one segment. This means that the brain was less complex than the three-segment brains seen in arthropod relatives of this creature , such as spiders, locusts, and butterflies.

Until now, many researchers believed that the common ancestor of all vertebrates and arthropods had a three-segment brain, but according to the finding, this is not the case.

An anatomical analysis showed that the brain controlled the creature’s large eyes and the frontal appendages it used to trap its victims.

The large eyes also shed light on the evolution of arthropods.

In fact, those of this creature are an intermediate step between simpler eyes in distant relatives, such as velvet worms and water bears, and the extremely complex eyes of arthropods.

An illustration showing the brain of ‘Kerygmachela kierkegaardi’ ./ Credit: Tae-Yoon Park; Rebecca Gelernter.

Researchers found the K. kierkegaardi fossils in the Sirius Passet Buen Formation, northern Greenland, in 2011 and 2016. These are the first known fossilized brains found at this archaeological site , and show that fossilized brains and nervous systems are very much more common than previously thought.

The Cambrian explosion

Despite its simplicity, K. kierkegaardi’s brain helped it survive during the Cambrian explosion, an event that began more than 540 million years ago, which occurred after the Snowball Earth period and after which a ‘burst of life’.

Before this ice age, which lasted 75 times longer than the entire history of Humanity, life already existed in the ocean. However, it was not a complex life.

In a post-thaw oxygen-rich ocean, primitive bacteria thrived to give rise to a new generation of multicellular organisms.

The primitive brain of this creature developed in this flourishing period.

During this stage, in addition, the K. kierkegaardi lived with other creatures, such as the trilobites, distant relatives of the locusts; and predators such as the Anomalocaris , 60 centimeters long, which also possessed large moving eyes and avid limbs.

References: Tae-Yoon S. Park. ‘Brain and eyes of Kerygmachela reveal protocerebral ancestry of the panarthropod head’. Nature Communications (2018). doi: 10.1038 / s41467-018-03464-w

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