Researchers have long explored a hole in the fossil record. Because what animal was the link between invertebrates and vertebrates?
Fish, reptiles, birds, mammals: sometimes they don’t look alike at all, but as vertebrates they share, well…just that: things like a spine and a skull. These structures must have formed at some point, but if you look at the fossils, there is a missing link somewhere. An animal that, or several animals that show this transition well.
Scientists now think they’ve hit on that link. They looked at the Son of Yunnan, a tiny extinct creature that lived in China around 518 million years ago. They are by no means the first researchers to have studied the fossils of this animal, but they are the first to use such a large container of high-tech equipment. The goal: to look in detail at the structures of the face and neck to determine once and for all where this animal belongs in the family tree of species.
They were then able to conclude: it must indeed be the oldest relative of the first vertebrates. And so maybe another little piece has been added to this huge jigsaw of life.
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