440-million-year-old fossils shed light on evolution from fish to humans

Discovered in China in 2019, these fossils are now considered the ancestors of modern creatures with jaws and backbones, including humans.

A discovery that answers many questions. In 2019, a scientific team unearthed two 440-million-year-old fish fossil beds in Guizhou Province and Chongqing Municipality, China. After analysis, these make it possible to “fill in some of the major gaps” in how fish evolved into the human species, the researchers announced last week.

Among the key findings of these findings, published in the journal Naturefigures the fact that “allows us to establish that many structures of the human body date back to ancient fish, some of which are 440 million years old,” according to researchers from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) of the Chinese Academy of sciences.

ancestor of man

In particular, a fish fossil from the Acanthodian family was found at the Chongqing site. This species of fish, with bony armor around its fins, is considered the ancestor of modern creatures with jaws and backbones, including humans.

In 2013, scientists discovered a 419-million-year-old fish fossil in China. According to them, this discovery had helped refute the long-standing theory that modern fish with a bony skeleton (osteichthyans) evolved from a shark-like fish with a cartilage structure.

The new creature discovered in China, called Fanjingshania, predates this ancient fish fossil by about 15 million years, according to the study.

“This is the oldest jawed fish whose anatomy is known,” Zhu Min, a member of the IVPP and head of the research team, told reporters on Wednesday.

“These new data have allowed (…) to obtain valuable information on the evolutionary steps that lead to the origin of important adaptations in vertebrates, such as jaws or sensory systems,” he adds.

A game-changing discovery

The Chongqing fossils are also the only ones in the world dating back nearly 440 million years to “preserve fish with entire jaws from head to tail,” offering a rare glimpse into a period considered “the dawn of fish”, according to the IVPP.

“This is truly an impressive set of game-changing fossil discoveries. It rewrites almost everything we know about the early evolutionary history of jawed animals,” said John Long, former president of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, who was not involved. in this work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *