Giant predators of the Cambrian found a third eye

(ORDO NEWS) — Canadian scientists have discovered in British Columbia the brain prints of one of the species of anomalocaris, the largest predators of the Earth since the Cambrian era.

“The presence of a giant third eye in this creature was an extremely unexpected discovery for us. This suggests that the inhabitants of the seas of the Cambrian era were even more bizarre than we thought in the past.

It also indicates that the first arthropod creatures had very diverse organs vision,” said Jean-Bernard Caron, curator of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto (Canada), quoted by the press service of the institution.

Almost all modern types of animals, as well as the ancestors of plants and fungi, appeared about 550-510 million years ago during the so-called “Cambrian explosion”.

At the same time, the first large predators of the Earth appeared – anomalocaris, some species of which reached a length of two meters. These arthropods used their eyes and mouth tentacles to actively hunt large prey, usually played by various species of trilobites.

Caron and his colleagues have been studying anomalocaris and other amazing flora and fauna of the Cambrian era for many years as part of excavations that scientists are conducting on the territory of British Columbia.

On the territory of this western province of Canada, special sedimentary rocks, the so-called Burgess Shales, occur, inside which imprints of the soft tissues of the body of the first animals of the Earth are often preserved.

Three-eyed giants

Recently, according to paleontologists, they managed to find several dozen superbly preserved body prints of Stanleycaris hirpex, one of the smallest species of anomalocaris.

Inside these fossils, the imprints of some segments of the nervous system of these ancient animals were preserved, which for the first time allowed scientists to study its structure.

To do this, scientists enlightened part of the fossils with X-rays and used the obtained images to compile a three-dimensional model of the brain of Stanleycaris hirpex.

Her study indicated that the nervous system of these ancient predators consisted of two large segments, which distinguishes anomalocaris from modern arthropods, whose central nervous system consists of three separate nodes.

In addition to this, scientists have discovered that these ancient predators had not two, but three eyes at once. Two of them were located on the sides of the body, and the third was on the top of Stanleycaris hirpex.

As scientists suggest, the first two eyes helped ancient predators to search for prey at the bottom, and the third eye, apparently, helped them defend themselves from attacks by larger competitors.

According to Karon and his colleagues, such an unusual number and structure of the eyes of these predators, which distinguishes them from other representatives of the fauna of the Cambrian era, speaks in favor of the fact that the first arthropod inhabitants of the Earth initially had very diverse vision systems.

They were not inferior in this regard to their modern descendants, the number of eyes in which can vary from one to twelve, the scientists concluded.

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