Nation & World News

Ancient Fish With Strong Jawline Could Rewrite History Of Faces

By Scott Neuman on September 25th, 2013

As faces go, Entelognathus primordialis isn’t much to look at, even for a fish.

But consider that the 419 million-year-old, armor-plated fish is the earliest known creature to have what humans might recognize as a face, according to research published Wednesday in Nature. That’s mostly due to its bony, modern jaw.

As USA Today reports:

“The first Entelognathus fossil was unearthed in China in 2010, but it was not until scientists had chipped away at the specimen in the lab that they realized they were onto something very weird. Their new fish looked like a placoderm, an ancient swimmer girded in homegrown armor made of bony plates. The fish, described in this week’s issue of Nature, had small, almost immobile eyes and a flat forehead. And then there was its lower face: a jigsaw puzzle of interlocking bones a lot like humans. It’s a homely ancient fish with a supermodel’s bone structure.”

The question of when fish first sported bony jaws — and therefore a mug that we can all recognize — is something scientists have spent time wondering about. And the latest findings may upend our understanding of how jawed vertebrates evolved.

Entelognathus belongs to the placoderm class of armored fish that Nature says existed some 430 million to 360 million years ago. Placoderms, it adds,had a bony skull and jaw, but most of them had simple beak-like jaws built out of bone plates.”

The recently unearthed fossil has scientists excited because, as Smithsonian.com points out, “it combines a series of characteristics from two different groups: placoderms … and bony fish, a lineage that gave rise to all modern fish with jaws and bone skeletons. Previously, it was assumed that placoderms died out completely (and that the other, more recent types of fish with similar armor plating had independently re-evolved it much later), while a different, shark-like group of fish called acanthodians led to the bony fishes.”

Smithsonian adds:

“This is significant because of what happened next: bony fish gave rise to all modern vertebrate fish, along with all amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, including ourselves. In other words, this fossil might mean that the placoderms didn’t go extinct, but rather evolved into the tremendous diversity of animals that live on both land and sea — and that this ancient, strange-looking face belongs to one of your oldest ancestors.”

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

This entry was posted in News from NPR. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.

 

More Stories in News from NPR

A member of the Lesotho military looks on as he stands guard in front of an armed personnel carrier at the entrance of the army barracks in the capital Maseru on Saturday. Lesotho's Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has accused the army of staging a coup.

South Africa Condemns Apparent Coup In Lesotho

Early Saturday, soldiers in the tiny kingdom completely surrounded by South Africa took to the streets amid gunfire, forcing the prime minister to flee. The army has denied a takeover.


Smoke rises near a Syrian flag hoisted up a flagpole as a result of the fighting between Syrian rebels and the Syrian Army over the control of Quneitra crossing, on Saturday. The area is where  dozens of U.N. peacekeepers had been under siege by Nusra Front fighters.

U.N. Peacekeepers Rescued After Being Trapped By Syrian Militants

Dozens of blue-helmeted Filipino soldiers were extracted after a firefight with militants on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.


Nicaraguan Miners Trapped After Collapse

Four miners remain trapped after 22 others were rescued at a gold and silver mine near the south central city of Bonanza.


An Oct. 28, 1985 photo of John A. Walker, Jr., being escorted by a federal marshal as he leaves the Montgomery County Detention Center in Rockville, Md., enroute to a federal court in Baltimore. He was ultimately sentenced to life in prison on espionage charges.

John Walker Jr., Cold War Spy For Soviets, Dies At 77

The U.S. Navy warrant officer recruited his son, his brother and a friend to help him steal and sell classified message keys to the USSR over a 17-year period.


President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko (left) and EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso during a news conference after a meeting at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels on Saturday to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine.

Poroshenko Says Ukraine Near To ‘Full-Scale War’

Speaking at a meeting of European Union foreign ministers, the Ukrainian president says Kiev is “close to the point of no return,” over Moscow’s direct support of separatists.


Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Day Sponsorship Payments
Underwriting Payments