Science

Fossil shrimp with five eyes is evolutionary missing link

PHOTO CREDITS: ALONGKOT SUMRITJEARPOL/GETTY 

According to Macau News Agency, a five-eyed ancestor of shrimp that lived around 520 million years ago has been discovered, possibly ending a long-standing debate about the evolution of Earth’s most common species.

Arthropods, which includes everything from lobsters and crabs to spiders and millipedes, make around eighty percent of all animal species alive today and are characterized by their hard exoskeleton. Their evolution has long been a mystery because their ancient ancestors have a variety of features that their modern counterparts do not. But this discovery in China’s Yunnan province might be the missing link, according to researchers.

Kylinxia Zhangi, a shrimp-like creature found in fossils, has three eyes lined up in a row, wih two larger ones directly behind it. This might sound baffling, but this has been seen before, in an ancient creature named Opabinia, also known as a “weird wonder”. The Kylinxia’s two spiky front appendages are also seen in another creature thought to be an arthropod ancestor, the Anomalocaris.

“Kylinxia represents a crucial transitional fossil predicted by Darwin’s evolutionary theory,” said Han Zeng, first author of a study published in the journal Nature on November 4th. Zeng, a researcher at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology (NIGPAS), added, “It bridges the evolutionary gap from Anomalocaris to true arthropods and forms a key ‘missing link’ in the origin of arthropods.”

Part of the value of the Kylinxia finding lies in the exceptional detail preserved in the fossils. “The Kylinxia fossils exhibit exquisite anatomical structures, for example, nervous tissue, eyes and digestive system – these are soft body parts we usually cannot see in conventional fossils,” said Fangchen Zhao, co-author of the study.

ARTICLE: JOSEPH MODICA

SCIENCE/HEALTH EDITOR: KYLE SMITH

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