I have three neat news stories to report, including the oldest insect ever, all cool fossil finds being reported just now.
Walking Fish Helps Fill Evolutionary Gap
Some 375 million years ago, a unique fish existed with features in its head that helped pave the way for vertebrate animals to live on land, scientists said on Wednesday.
Now, new research is providing the first glimpse at the internal head skeleton of Tiktaalik roseae.
The transition from aquatic to terrestrial lifestyle involved complex changes not only to appendages (fins to limbs) but also to the internal head skeleton, researchers report in the recent issue of the journal Nature.
“Exquisite specimens of Tiktaalik roseae discovered several years ago continue to function as rosetta stones for understanding the emergence of quadripeds on land,” said H. Richard Lane, program director in the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s Division of Earth Sciences, which funded the research.
The head showed changes from more primitive fish that helped adapt to the new feeding and breathing conditions presented by a terrestrial environment, the scientists said.
Scientific sleuthing by a Tufts University geology team in a rock formation behind a strip mall in North Attleborough has yielded the world’s oldest whole-body impression of a winged insect, according to Tufts. The discovery was announced today.
The exquisitely-detailed fossil has been identified as the imprint left 310 million years ago by a primitive mayfly that lighted briefly on a muddy outcropping in what was then a steamy Carboniferous Period flood plain.
That fleeting moment in the life of a creature that probably lived no longer than 24 hours was captured for eternity by mud that hardened into rock, until it was discovered last year by Tufts geology student Richard J. Knecht working with Jacob Benner, a paleontologist who specializes in ichnology, the study of prehistoric animal behavior as told by fossilized tracks and other evidence.
“This is an extremely rare fossil record of insect behavior, not just the fossilized body of an insect,” Benner said in an interview.
Damn. I’ve done a bunch of fieldwork in North Attleborough. Never found one of these suckers, though!
Fossilized crustaceans linked together in head-to-tail chains recently discovered near Kunming have been recognized as the earliest form of collective behavior on Earth and an important link in the evolution of life – and have raised new questions about some of the planet’s earliest life forms.
The 525 million year-old shrimplike specimens, located in the fossil-rich Chengjiang Lagerstätte roughly 50 kilometers southeast of Kunming, have been studied by a team of scientists from Yunnan University and University of Oxford and University of Leicester in the UK with their results published in the journal Science.
The Chengjiang Lagerstätte is known among paleontologists for the fossilized sea life it contains, collectively referred to as ‘Chengjiang Fauna’. Chengjiang Fauna is considered one of the ‘Three faunas of the evolution of early life forms’ along with Burgess Shale Fauna in western Canada and the Ediacaran Fauna of South Australia.
How cool is that????