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News of a primitive Cambrian fish?

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Metaspriggina/Giant Blue Anteater

Metaspriggina and Maripolia/Giant Blue Anteater

At one time, it wasn’t clear that there were any clearly vertebrate Cambrians, but Simon Conway Morris and Jean-Bernard Caron redescribe Metaspriggina as such.

From Nature:

Knowledge of the early evolution of fish largely depends on soft-bodied material from the Lower (Series 2) Cambrian period of South China1, 2. Owing to the rarity of some of these forms and a general lack of comparative material from other deposits, interpretations of various features remain controversial3, 4, as do their wider relationships amongst post-Cambrian early un-skeletonized jawless vertebrates. Here we redescribe Metaspriggina5 on the basis of new material from the Burgess Shale and exceptionally preserved material collected near Marble Canyon, British Columbia6, and three other Cambrian Burgess Shale-type deposits from Laurentia. This primitive fish displays unambiguous vertebrate features: a notochord, a pair of prominent camera-type eyes, paired nasal sacs, possible cranium and arcualia, W-shaped myomeres, and a post-anal tail. A striking feature is the branchial area with an array of bipartite bars. Apart from the anterior-most bar, which appears to be slightly thicker, each is associated with externally located gills, possibly housed in pouches. Phylogenetic analysis places Metaspriggina as a basal vertebrate, apparently close to the Chengjiang taxa Haikouichthys1, 2, 3, 4 and Myllokunmingia1, demonstrating also that this primitive group of fish was cosmopolitan during Lower–Middle Cambrian times (Series 2–3). However, the arrangement of the branchial region in Metaspriggina has wider implications for reconstructing the morphology of the primitive vertebrate. Each bipartite bar is identified as being respectively equivalent to an epibranchial and ceratobranchial. This configuration suggests that a bipartite arrangement is primitive and reinforces the view that the branchial basket of lampreys7 is probably derived. Other features of Metaspriggina, including the external position of the gills and possible absence of a gill opposite the more robust anterior-most bar, are characteristic of gnathostomes8 and so may be primitive within vertebrates. (paywall)

If this interpretation of the fossil holds up, the vertebrate class was present in the Cambrian too.

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27 Replies to “News of a primitive Cambrian fish?

  1. 1
    Mung says:

    It’s almost as if someone pulled a rabbit out of the Cambrian.

  2. 2
  3. 3
    turell says:

    The first fish with a notochord was Pikaia from the Burgess shale described by Gould in Wonderful Life. Simon Morris has found several fish in China, one he described as resembling a hagfish. This is just another confirmatory finding. ‘Notochord’ is a primative beginning of a verbral column.

  4. 4
    Jehu says:

    Cambrian fossils are always marine animals, so that would have to be a water breathing rabbit.

  5. 5
    JGuy says:

    Presumably, during the Cambrian, the earths continents must have been barren wastelands. Are there Cambrian fossils of these barren land forms/continents? Also, I wonder what the erosion rates of such land forms would be measured at compared to that of today’s vegetated land forms.

  6. 6
    ppolish says:

    Ok, I can see how the dozen or so modern day chordates are related to this guy. But monkeys? Honestly, I don’t think sea monkeys ever existed.

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    Metaspriggina: Vertebrates Found in Cambrian Explosion – August 29, 2014
    Excerpt: Now that some months have passed since the discovery of another rich trove of Cambrian fossils 26 miles from the Burgess Shale, scientists are starting to publish findings from the new Marble Canyon site. One amazing find just published by Simon Conway Morris and Jean-Bernard Caron is putting more bang in the Cambrian explosion.,,,
    ,,,it was a vertebrate fish, right there in the Lower Cambrian! Imagine a vertebrate fish, with a skeleton, binocular vision, muscles, nerves, gut and blood vessels: it is so complex compared to what came before, it makes the suddenness and explosive increase in complexity undeniable.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....89471.html

  8. 8
    turell says:

    3. Not ‘vebral’. I meant vertebral

  9. 9
    wd400 says:

    Mung,

    It’s rather more like a close relative of cambrian fish in this Cambrian. News, in that style that she’s amde her own, is able to say “If this interpretation of the fossil holds up, the vertebrate class was present in the Cambrian too.” directly after the claim the quote that describes the other Cambrian fish this one is purportedly related to.

  10. 10
    bornagain77 says:

    “confirms that this animal was far more than a chordate: it was a vertebrate fish”

    also of note:

    ‘Mother Lode’ of (Cambrian) Fossils Discovered in Canada – Feb. 11, 2014
    Excerpt: Retinas, corneas, neural tissue, guts and even a possible heart and liver were found.
    http://www.scientificamerican......in-canada/

    as to astonishing complexity at the base of the Cambrian,,,

    The Optimal Trilobite Eye – per Dr. Don Johnson – Programming of Life page 68-66 and appendix F:

    Trilobites suddenly appeared in the Cambrian (lowest fossil-bearing) stratum with no record of ancestry. The trilobite eye is made of optically transparent calcium carbonate (calcite, the same mineral of its shell) with a precisely aligned optical axis that eliminates double images and two lenses affixed together to eliminate spherical aberrations [McC98, Gal00].

    Paleontologist Niles Eldredge observed, “These lenses–technically termed aspherical, aplanatic lenses–optimize both light collecting and image formation better than any lens ever conceived. We can be justifiably amazed that these trilobites, very early in the history of life on earth, hit upon the best possible lens that optical physics has ever been able to formulate” [Eld76]. Notice these lenses weren’t just good as, but were better than anything modern optical physicists have been able to conceive! ,,,

    “The design of the trilobite’s eye lens could well qualify for a patent disclosure” [Lev93p58].,,,

    The trilobite lens is particularly intriguing since the only other animal to use inorganic focusing material is man. The lens may be classified as a prosthetic device since it was non-biological, which also means the lens itself, with apparently no DNA inherent within, was not subject to Darwinian evolution. The manufacturing and controlling of the lenses were obviously biological processes, with an unknown number DNA-prescribed proteins (each with a prescriptive manufacturing program) for collecting and processing the raw materials to manufacture the precision lenses and create the refracting interface between the two lenses.

    The lenses do not decompose as any other animal’s lenses would, so they are subject to rigorous scientific investigation,,, Since no immediate precursors of trilobites have been found, Darwinists are without any evidence as to how an organism with an eye as complex as a trilobite could have arisen,,, especially in,, the lowest multi-cellular fossil-bearing stratum,,,

    Appendix F:

    “Trilobites had solved a very elegant physical problem and apparently knew about Fermat’s principle, Abbe’s sine law, Snell’s laws of refraction and the optics of birefringent crystals” [Cla75]

    “the rigid trilobite doublet lens had remarkable depth of field (near and far focusing) and minimal spherical aberration” [Gon07]

    Physicist Riccardo Levi-Setti observes:

    “In fact, this doublet is a device so typically associated with human invention that its discovery comes as something of a shock. The realization that trilobites developed and used such devices half a billion years ago makes the shock even greater. And a final discovery – that the refracting interface between the two elements in a trilobite’s eyes was designed in accordance with optical constructions worked out by Descartes and Huygens in the mid-seventeenth century – borders on sheer science fiction” [Lev93p57].

    “The trilobites already had a highly advanced visual system. In fact, so far as we can tell from the fossil record thus far discovered, trilobite sight was far and away the most advanced in Kingdom Animalia at the base of the Cambrian,,, There is no other known occurrence of calcite eyes in the fossil record” [FM-trib].

    Complex Arthropod Eyes Found in Early Cambrian – June 2011
    Excerpt: Complex eyes with modern optics from an unknown arthropod, more complex than trilobite eyes, have been discovered in early Cambrian strata from southern Australia.,,, Here we report exceptionally preserved fossil eyes from the Early Cambrian (~515 million years ago) Emu Bay Shale of South Australia, revealing that some of the earliest arthropods possessed highly advanced compound eyes, each with over 3,000 large ommatidial lenses and a specialized ‘bright zone’. These are the oldest non-biomineralized eyes known in such detail, with preservation quality exceeding that found in the Burgess Shale and Chengjiang deposits. Non-biomineralized eyes of similar complexity are otherwise unknown until about 85 million years later. The arrangement and size of the lenses indicate that these eyes belonged to an active predator that was capable of seeing in low light. The eyes are more complex than those known from contemporaneous trilobites and are as advanced as those of many living forms. They provide further evidence that the Cambrian explosion involved rapid innovation in fine-scale anatomy as well as gross morphology,
    http://crev.info/content/11062.....y_cambrian

    Modern optics in the eyes of an Early Cambrian arthropod – June 2011
    Excerpt: ‘the Emu Bay Shale, which provides exquisite preservation of Early Cambrian animals, has now supplied us with the earliest example of an non-trilobite arthropod eye. Of the seven specimens recovered to date, three are spectacular for the detail revealed and stunning because they document eyes that “are as advanced as those of many living forms”
    http://www.arn.org/blogs/index.....n_early_ca

  11. 11
    Mung says:

    wd400, there is no single source of ‘News’ here at UD. ‘News’ does not always map to Denyse O’Leary.

    If you claim to be able to identify the “intelligent designer” of posts here at UD that would be of supreme interest.

  12. 12
    gpuccio says:

    BA:

    Thank you for the very interesting sources, as usual.

    Just for fun. I checked the issue of the trilobite eye to understand it better, and I found this site:

    http://www.trilobites.info/eyes.htm

    which, indeed, explains well the optical design of the trilobite lens, with good comparisons to the designs of Descartes and Huygens. The title of the first section is, interestingly:

    “The advantage of good eye design* ”

    The point is: why the asterisk? A note, obviously.

    A small note in red at the end of the paragraph:

    * I use the term “design” as a lead-in to the parallels between the optic designs of humans and the remarkably evolved morphology of trilobites. Trilobites provide some superb examples of evolution in action (see “loss of eyes” below). Trilobites make it quite clear that evolution of eyes occurs, and that one does not need to evoke “intelligent design” by a creator to explain them. To do so detracts from the idea of an omniscient being. It would have God tinkering with many flawed and suboptimal “designs” and never developing a perfect one. Who would want to worship a god like that? I mention this because this page has been used (without my permission) by people espousing “intelligent design” to the public, and I want it to be clear that I do not share those opinions, nor need that flawed argument to underpin my faith. Evolution is a remarkable and well-documented process, and breakthroughs in our understanding of its intricacies occur every year. Evolution is not in conflict with religious belief. Ignorance and intolerance damage the benefits of faith.

    Do we really need any demonstration that there is a true ideological war against ID theory, and not only an intellectual confrontation, as some of our interlocutors here would like to believe?

  13. 13
    News says:

    wd400 at 9, many Cambrian IDs sound tentative. Naturally, it would be a plus for Meyer’s interpretation of the Cambrian if it turns out that something like an actual fish (vertebrate class) was definitely present.

    Yet we must beware of seeing what we want to see. Metaspriggina here is a reinterpretation, based on new finds, but doubtless subject to challenge.

    That said, you will likely turn out to be right, the vertebrate class was present too. So the Cambrian grows even more remarkable.

  14. 14
    wd400 says:

    From the article you quoted:

    … this primitive group of fish was cosmopolitan during Lower–Middle Cambrian times

    The vertebrate “class” (actually a sub-phylum), represented by Myllokunmingia and others, is already known from the Cambrian.

  15. 15
    bornagain77 says:

    your point being what??? the only ones who contested it as vertebrate were Darwinists,,,

    Knowledge of the early evolution of fish largely depends on soft-bodied material from the Lower (Series 2) Cambrian period of South China1, 2. Owing to the rarity of some of these forms and a general lack of comparative material from other deposits, interpretations of various features remain controversial3, 4, as do their wider relationships amongst post-Cambrian early un-skeletonized jawless vertebrates. Here we redescribe Metaspriggina5 on the basis of new material from the Burgess Shale and exceptionally preserved material collected near Marble Canyon, British Columbia6, and three other Cambrian Burgess Shale-type deposits from Laurentia. This primitive fish displays unambiguous vertebrate features:”

  16. 16
    Querius says:

    bornagain77,

    When I read the paper last night, I was struck by the statement you quoted:

    Owing to the rarity of some of these forms and a general lack of comparative material from other deposits, interpretations of various features remain controversial, as do their wider relationships amongst post-Cambrian early un-skeletonized jawless vertebrates.

    Why should rarity undermine a finding? Who designated the “various features” (i.e. vertebrae) as “controversial”?

    I guess we now know what the resulting paper would read like if someone actually did find a fossilized rabbit in the Cambrian. If it ever was published. I can just imagine the conversation:

    Think of your career! You’ll never get a job anywhere. A lot of important people will be very annoyed. No, it’s much better for everyone if you simply jackhammer the fossil.

    Has science become an exercise in force-fitting some discordant data and arrogantly dismissing the rest?

    -Q

  17. 17
    bornagain77 says:

    Querius, I am with you 100%. Working with jet engines in the Air Force and working in a Chemical Factory afterwards, and the healthy respect for science that experience engendered, I never thought science could be twisted as bad as Darwinists twist it .,,,

    or as Romans 1:20 says, they are ‘without excuse’,

    “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

  18. 18
    Querius says:

    From my perspective, they are full of excuses, but without excuse.

    -Q

  19. 19
    lifepsy says:

    I guess we now know what the resulting paper would read like if someone actually did find a fossilized rabbit in the Cambrian. If it ever was published.

    Not even young earth creationists expect to find terrestrial animals in the Cambrian for obvious reasons (Benthic ecosystems were clearly buried by the flood first), but if a cambrian rabbit were discovered for some bizarre reason then it would definitely not be published in secular literature, and it would be career/journal suicide for anyone who tried. They would be accused of promoting a hoax. Evolutionists would be convinced it it some type of trick, human error, mislabeled stratigraphical range, geological reworking, or some as of yet unidentified anomaly. It would simply have to be in their minds.

  20. 20
    Querius says:

    Yeah, there are many hoaxes, lifepsy, just think of YouTube videos!

    Some hoaxes are compatible with the current narrative, and spread. Other “hoaxes” are relentlessly suppressed for a while such as this one:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignaz_Semmelweis

    I think someone here posted a series of steps that all new discoveries must go through. It went something like this:

    1. Denial
    2. Ridicule
    2. Speculative dismissal or rationalization
    3. Active Suppression
    4. Acceptance as obvious

    -Q

  21. 21
    Querius says:

    Thinking about it some more, Dr. Mary H. Schweitzer was both cautious and courageous to announce her discovery of the preserved T. rex soft tissue in 1993, and then publishing her team’s findings in 2005 and 2007.

    While there were scientists who were skeptical about her findings, rightly so, she didn’t suffer the fate of Semmelweis.

    -Q

  22. 22
    Acartia_bogart says:

    BA77: “your point being what??? the only ones who contested it as vertebrate were Darwinists,,,”

    Really? Could you name some ‘Darwinists’ in the last 50 years who have contested this? Or are you going to fall back on the creationist style guide and claim that all evolutionary biologists are Darwinists?

  23. 23
    bornagain77 says:

    AB, in my book, anyone who thinks that ‘filtered accidents’ produced the unfathomed complexity we see in life is a Darwinist. You may disagree, and you may not like it, but alas, I don’t really care what you believe or like. Especially since Darwinian presuppositions are major hinderance to biological science,,,

    James Shapiro on “dangerous oversimplifications” about the cell – August 6, 2013
    Excerpt: “Depending upon the energy source and other circumstances, these indescribably complex entities can reproduce themselves with great reliability at times as short as 10-20 minutes. Each reproductive cell cycle involves literally hundreds of millions of biochemical and biomechanical events. We must recognize that cells possess a cybernetic capacity beyond our ability to imitate. Therefore, it should not surprise us when we discover extremely dense and interconnected control architectures at all levels. Simplifying assumptions about cell informatics can be more misleading than helpful in understanding the basic principles of biological function.
    Two dangerous oversimplifications have been (i) to consider the genome as a mere physical carrier of hypothetical units called “genes” that determine particular cell or organismal traits, and (ii) to think of the genome as a digitally encoded Read-Only Turing tape that feeds instructions to the rest of the cell about individual characters [4].”
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....-the-cell/

    supplemental note:

    Unguided or Not? How Do Darwinian Evolutionists Define Their Theory? – Casey Luskin – August 11, 2012
    Excerpt: While many new atheists undoubtedly make poor philosophers, the “unguided” nature of Darwinian evolution is not a mere metaphysical “add on.” Rather, it’s a core part of how the theory of Darwinian evolution has been defined by its leading proponents. Unfortunately, even some eminent theistic and intelligent design-friendly philosophers appear unaware of the history and scientific development of neo-Darwinian theory.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....63191.html

  24. 24
    Acartia_bogart says:

    BA77, I realize that you don’t care what I think, and I assure you that I don’t lose any sleep over your thoughts either. But I must admit that I have a morbid curiosity about the creationist propaganda strategy and thought processes.

  25. 25
    bornagain77 says:

    “morbid curiosity about the creationist propaganda strategy and thought processes”

    But alas AB, since my thought processes, according to materialists, are really just chemical fluctuations of the brain that I have no real control over, how in blue blazes can my chemical fluctuations have a ‘propaganda strategy’??? Wouldn’t that demand that ‘I’, what ‘I’ is in the materialistic worldview, have free will and foresight???

    “Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”
    —C.S. Lewis

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter”.
    J. B. S. Haldane [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.

    Do the New Atheists Own the Market on Reason? – On the terms of the New Atheists, the very concept of rationality becomes nonsensical – By R. Scott Smith, May 03, 2012
    Excerpt: If atheistic evolution by NS were true, we’d be in a beginningless series of interpretations, without any knowledge. Yet, we do know many things. So, naturalism & atheistic evolution by NS are false — non-physical essences exist. But, what’s their best explanation? Being non-physical, it can’t be evolution by NS. Plus, we use our experiences, form concepts and beliefs, and even modify or reject them. Yet, if we’re just physical beings, how could we interact with and use these non-physical things? Perhaps we have non-physical souls too. In all, it seems likely the best explanation for these non-physical things is that there exists a Creator after all.
    http://www.patheos.com/Evangel.....#038;max=1

    Verse and Music:

    Psalm 19:14
    May my words and my thoughts be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my sheltering rock and my redeemer.

    Hillsong – Mighty to Save – With Subtitles/Lyrics
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-08YZF87OBQ

  26. 26
    bornagain77 says:

    correction: whatever ‘I’ is in the materialistic worldview,,,

  27. 27
    Querius says:

    bornagain77 wrote,

    James Shapiro on “dangerous oversimplifications” about the cell – August 6, 2013
    Excerpt: “Depending upon the energy source and other circumstances, these indescribably complex entities can reproduce themselves with great reliability at times as short as 10-20 minutes. Each reproductive cell cycle involves literally hundreds of millions of biochemical and biomechanical events.

    The probability against anything like this forming in a mere several billion years is so overwhelmingly small, that only those people who are clueless about probability would even entertain the idea.

    I’m afraid your words will be wasted on what could simply be a verbal abuse bot. Think of it in terms of C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce. 🙂

    -Q

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