Fossilized brain of 525-million-year-old deep-sea worm possibly oldest discovered

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

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A fossilized 525-million-year-old worm found in China has possibly the oldest brain specimen ever discovered. The surprising shape of the brain offers clues about the evolution of arthropods, a group that includes insects, arachnids and crustaceans, and may help solve a mystery that has baffled researchers for more than a century.

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

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