Compared to those of 500 mya
The new research focuses on an oval structure, called the anterior sclerite, found in the heads of ancient arthropods. The anterior sclerite has long baffled researchers, especially because some prehistoric arthropods have it while others don’t, and its location in the head changes, depending on the quality of the fossil.
But now, fossilized brains have helped solve that mystery. An analysis of the anterior sclerites in two arthropod fossils, both more than 500 million years old, indicates that the structures were associated with the creatures’ bulbous eyes. The findings provide evidence that these oval structures were associated with nerves originating in the anterior region of the brain, according to the study.
Living arthropods don’t have an anterior sclerite, which suggests the heads of arthropods have changed over time, experts said.
“This suggests that the anterior sclerite was lost or fused to the head shield in living arthropods,” said David Legg, a research fellow with expertise in early arthropod evolution and phylogenetics at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History in the United Kingdom, who was not involved with the study.
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