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Fossil reveals an ancient arthropod’s nervous system

Ventral nerve cord controlled critter’s many legs

By
2:32pm, March 1, 2016
Chengjiangocaris kunmingensis

ROCK STAR  The ancient arthropod Chengjiangocaris kunmingensis looked crustaceanesque with a large head, long body and paired legs — and a ventral nerve cord (dark horizontal line above the legs is part of a preserved cord). 

The fossilized remains of an about 520-million-year-old creepy-crawly provides a portrait of an ancient arthropod’s nervous system.

Researchers first described Chengjiangocaris kunmingensis — an ancient relative of spiders, insects and crustaceans unearthed from a fossil bed in southern China — in 2013. Further imaging and investigation of five new fossilized specimens reveal exceptionally well-preserved soft tissue and a ropelike structure running down the animal’s belly. That structure is the remains of a ventral nerve cord, Xi-guang Zhang of Yunnan University in Kunming, China, and colleagues explain February 29 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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