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HomeScienceFossilized brain of 525 million-year-old deep sea worm likely the oldest ever...

Fossilized brain of 525 million-year-old deep sea worm likely the oldest ever discovered

An abstract artist’s impression of what the fossilized worm, Cardiodictyon catenulum, may have looked like.  (Image credit: Nicholas Strausfeld/The University of Arizona)

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A 525 million-year-old fossilized worm unearthed in China has what is likely the oldest example of a brain ever discovered. The surprising shape of the brain offers clues about the evolution of arthropods — a group that includes insects, arachnids and crustaceans — and could help solve a mystery that’s been puzzling researchers for more than a century. 

The ancient critter, known as Cardiodictyon catenulum, was discovered in 1984 along with numerous other fossils, collectively known as Chengjiang fauna, at a site in China’s Yunnan province. The worm-like creature belongs to the phylum Lobopodia — a group of extinct, seafloor-dwelling arthropod ancestors with armored shells and stubby legs that were abundant during the Cambrian period (541 million to 485.4 million years ago).

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