Offbeat

By Hannah McFadyen


The ancient brain of a fossilised sea monster has been discovered within the frozen shale of Greenland.

Discovered by a Bristol University researcher and his team, the ancient fossilised brains are an incredible 520 million years old.

The fossil is of a prehistoric marine predatory called Kerygmachela kierkegaardi – which existed around 521 and 514 million years ago.

Jakob Vinther / Caters News

With 11 sets of legs, a spiney tail and feelers, it’s believed that the odd looking oval shaped beast lived in the seas around Greenland.

They’re some of the earliest recorded fossils of brains and amazingly 15 more of these brain fossils have been discovered by the researchers since.

While it’s not a new creature finding its brain in such a well preserved condition is.

Dr Jakob Vinther, a palaeontologist, and his team discovered the beast Sirius Passet, North Greenland and Vinther describes the beast’s brain as a ‘missing link’.

Tae Yoon Park / Caters

According to a new piece of research released this month, the brain of this creature changes the way we think about our own brain’s evolution.

Vinther says that humans, as well as arthropods have three part brain, and it was previously thought that the ancestors that we evolved from also had these three part brains, but this new research proves otherwise.

Vinther said: “The fossils had been discovered over a couple seasons in Greenland and the first fossils we discovered were beautiful specimens of this Kerygmachela, as well as being really important fossils that help show us how arthropods evolved.

“You can call it a missing link as it contains feature that exists in living creatures, but not in previous fossils.

Rebecca Gelernter/ Caters News

“When we first found some of the specimens in the field, there was lots of load shouting and cheering- it was a great moment.

“When we got home and cleaned up the fossils – that’s when we realised that the brain tissue was preserved in it.

“We decided to collect more and when we went back, we found loads of new specimens and we were able to find 15 in total – which is amazing as they’re very rare.

“To find the fossils, we find plots of shale and we split the shale and the fossils are lying within the sheets of shale.

Rebecca Gelernter/ Caters News

“The interesting thing is that it’s a very simple creature. Arthropods have a brain that has three parts that helps because they have complex behaviour and they need a big brain to facilitate that.

“Humans and all vertebrates have this, we thought previously that our ancestors had a three part brain, but our discovery doesn’t have that.

“It has only one part brain, so we previously thought that our common ancestors must have had a three part brain, but this fossil proves it was not the case.

Rebecca Gelernter/ Caters News

“People have described brains from other fossils before, but they only had a couple of specimens – we discovered 15 specimens to make our interpretations from.”