(ORDO NEWS) — The fossil age of the centipede Kamperis cobanensis, discovered on the Scottish island of Kerrera (part of the Inner Hebrides archipelago), was estimated at 425 million years. According to a study by scientists from the University of Texas at Austin, this is the oldest arthropod found to this day.
According to the authors of the work, their data provide new information on the origin and development of all insects, crustaceans, arachnids, and millipedes, suggesting that they evolved much faster than thought, in just 40 million years.
“This is a big leap from the tiny creatures that live in the ponds to the complex forest communities, and, in fact, it did not take so much time,” says Michael Brookfield, a researcher at the Jackson School of Geophysical Research at the University of Texas. Scientists previously believed that the oldest millipede fossil discovered dates back to 500 million years old, but a team from Austin applied a completely new dating technique and found out that, in fact, it was 75 million years younger and lived not in late Cambrian, but in the late Silurian period.
The dating problem was that zircon – as an indicator of geological processes in radioisotope analysis – is able to provide the most accurate idea of the age of the fossil, but this microscopic mineral is extremely difficult to extract from the ash mountain sediment in which the fossils were stored. And one of the authors of the described work, Stephanie Suarez, created her own technique for separating zircon grains from sediments.
According to scientists, although it is possible that older insect fossils exist, the fact that they were not found – even in the most ancient sediments – may indicate that all their ancient remains have already been discovered. From this we can conclude that insects (and arthropods in general) evolved much faster than is commonly believed.
Earlier, a fossil from the Jurassic told of the shellfish hunting for fish, as a result of which none of them survived. And the mass extinction of 444 million years ago was associated with a sharp decrease in the concentration of oxygen throughout the Earth.
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