An international team of researchers from the University of Arizona, China and the United Kingdom has discovered the earliest known cardiovascular system, and the first to clearly show a sophisticated system complete with heart and blood vessels, in fossilized remains of an extinct marine creature that lived over half a billion years ago. The finding sheds new light on the evolution of body organization in the animal kingdom and shows that even the earliest creatures had internal organizational systems that strongly resemble those found in their modern descendants.
Using a clever imaging technique that selectively reveals different structures in the fossil based on their chemical composition, collaborator Xiaoya Ma at London’s Natural History Museum was able to identify the heart, which extended along the main part of the body, and its many lateral arteries corresponding to each segment. Its arteries were composed of carbon-rich deposits and gave rise to long channels, which presumably took blood to limbs and other organs.
“With that, we can now start speculating about behavior,” Strausfeld explained. “Because of well-supplied blood vessels to its brain, we can assume this was a very active animal capable of making many different behavioral choices.”More.
Not that they mention it, of course, but that’s half a billion years that the “sophisticated system” “capable of making many different behavioral choices” did not have to just evolve that way, via natural selection acting on random mutation (Darwinian evolution). So how much time was there at the other end, the single celled end?
No wonder the Cambrian period caused Darwin to doubt. And no wonder:
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This also from University of Arizona News.
Hat tip: Philip Cunningham
See also: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (origin of life)
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