Scientists in Australia have discovered a heart in a 380-million-year fossil of a fish. The discovery has set the hearts of the researchers from Curtin University racing because it is not only “beautifully reserved” but could also yield clues about the evolution of jawed vertebrates, including humans, a report in CNET said. The fossil also includes stomach, intestine and liver, with the organs resembling the anatomy of a shark. The details about the discovery have been published in journal Science.
The CNETreport said that the heart belongs to fish from the arthrodire family that became extinct 358 million years ago. The specimen is older than the current record holder fossil – that of a jawed fish.
The heart is S-shaped and has two chambers, which led researchers to draw similarities between the fish and modern sharks.
“Evolution is often thought of as a series of small steps, but these ancient fossils suggest there was a larger leap between jawless and jawed vertebrates,” professor Kate Trinajstic, a vertebrate paleontologist at Curtin University and co-author of a study on the findings , has been quoted as saying by CNET. “These fish literally have their hearts in their mouths and under their gills – just like sharks today.”
According to a report in Independent, the fossil was found in the Gogo Formation in the Kimberley region of western Australia. The reef is known for its unique fauna and flora preserved from the late Devonian period.
Professor John Long, from Flinders University, another co-author of the study described the discovery as “truly the stuff of a palaeontologist’s dreams”.