The world’s oldest face belongs to this 419 million-year-old fish
Discovery of an ancient sea predator might also re-write the history of our evolution from the seas
Thursday 26 September 2013
Scientists believe that a new fossil discovery from China is the world’s oldest known example of the bone structure we now recognize as a face.
The remarkably well-preserved fish (an example of the species Entelognathus primordialis) was discovered in Southeast China in a layer of sediment dating back to the Silurian period – making the specimen roughly 419 million years old.
Detailed in the journal Nature, the find is remarkable because it’s the earliest known example of the basic facial bone structure we recognize today: the ancient predator has a jaw, a mouth, two eyes and a nose.
All other previous finds from this geological time period have been of jawless fish – a type of animal that still exists today as lamprey and hagfish.
However, even stranger than looking eye to eye with the world’s oldest known face is the idea that this fossil might even be a director ancestor of human life.
The fossil is unique in that it displays characteristics of two types of ancient fish: placoderms (heavily armoured fish that were thought to have gone extinct millions of years ago) and bony fish (a taxonomic group that gave rise to all modern veterbrate fish - and subsequently amphibians, birds, mammals and finally us).
The face of the fossil. The jaw is towards the bottom right, and above the mouth three perforations can be seen. The far left is the eye socket and the next two in are the nostrils. Image courtesy of Nature/Min Zhu.
This new find has the body and cranium (the top of the skull) of a placoderm but the jaws of a bony fish, meaning that perhaps the heavily-armoured fish species never went extinct, and instead evolved (eventually) into the many land and sea animals that exist today.
In other words, this fossil might rewrite scientific models of our most ancient evolutionary paths.
“It’s going to take a while for people to digest it and figure out what it all means,” Matt Friedman, a paleobiologist at the University of Oxford who reviewed the paper, told The Smithsonian blog. “From a fossil like this, you’ve got a cascade of implications, and this is just the first paper to deal with them.”
A reconstruction of how the fossil might have appeared 419-million years: a top predator in ancient oceans. Image courtesy of Brian Choo.
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
- 1 Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
- 2 War is war: Why I stand with Israel
- 3 L'Oreal cuts ties with Belgium supporter Axelle Despiegelaere after hunting trip photographs
- 5 Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country
Ian Thorpe gay: Olympic swimmer comes out in Parkinson interview
Death in the Valley of the Dolls: Heroin overdose turns the spotlight on prostitution boom in California's tech industry
Supermoon 2014: When and why will the moon look bigger and brighter this summer?
Woman, 61, jailed for seven years after drink-drive death of cyclist
Gaza-Israel conflict: Pro-Palestinian demonstrators take to streets of London, Paris and New York in wave of protests
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
War is war: Why I stand with Israel
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...
£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...
£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...
£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Payment Dev...