A jawless ancient fish discovered in the Canadian Rockies holds clues about how vertebrates evolved. According to NewsMax, the tiny Metaspriggina lived about 515 to 500 million years ago. Recently, 100 fossil specimens of the fish were found, most in excellent condition. These fossils have allowed researchers to study the primitive body structures which didn’t have any bones. The details provided by the new fossils are unprecedented.
Jean-Bernard Caron, a paleontologist at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, explained:
“It allows an understanding of where we come from and what our most distant relatives might have looked like. Because of its great age – more than half a billion year old – Metaspriggina provides a deep down view at the origins of the vertebrates.”
The jawless ancient fish had soft bodies and were about 2-1/2 inches long. Researchers believe that the boneless fish had a skull and a skeletal rod made of cartilage. It is believed that the rod — called the “notochord” — had the same function as present-day vertebrates. Studies show how these ancient creatures’ inner structures contributed to the evolution of bones and other structures in birds, reptiles, and even humans.
University of Cambridge paleontologist Simon Conway Morris said:
“Metaspriggina is important because it both fills an important gap in our understanding of the early evolution of the group to which we belong, but in particular shows with remarkable clarity the arrangement of the so-called branchial arches.”
Yahoo! News reports that the jawless ancient fish were some of the first creatures on earth to develop the precursor to a jaw. From this information, scientists are able to see just how structures in the mouth (and the body) came to be. Rod-like structures near the fishes’ gills helped with filtration of food particles and respiration according to NewsMax. While not called “jaws,” the functions were fairly similar. Gill arches don’t provide new information, but scientists have never seen examples of “pre-jaw” animals dating that far back in history.
Animal discoveries like the jawless ancient fish happen all the time. Back in February, researchers discovered fossils that depicted a “live birth” of a reptile in China. As previously reported by The Inquisitr,the Mesozoic fossil contained a female ichthyosaur and three embryos. The ichthyosaur is believed to be “one of the first land animals to become aquatic.” The 248-million-year-old fossil showed “babies” being born head-first, which is a trait of animals who give birth on land. This proves that the aquatic creature was, indeed, once a land roaming reptile.
[Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]