Privateer in the service of Princess Frideswide
- Jan 19, 2014
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Who’s the daddy?
This carbonised film was once a fish—one of the most ancient known to science. It is called Metaspriggina walcotti and dates from 505m years ago, the middle of the Cambrian period. It, and about 100 others like it, were collected recently from the Burgess Shale in British Columbia by Simon Conway Morris of Cambridge University and Jean-Bernard Caron of the University of Toronto. The researchers describe these unusual fish in a paper in Nature. Metaspriggina had large eyes (towards the left in the photograph) and, though boneless and therefore spineless, had a characteristic structure called a notochord running along its back to stiffen it. Backboned animals, too, have a notochord when they are embryos, though it disappears during development. Metaspriggina or one of its contemporaries was thus ancestral to mankind.