The find,Â published this weekÂ in the scientific journal Nature,Â would be remarkable just as a simple superlative. But what makes the report all the more stunning is that this hundreds of millions years old brain looks, well, like a brain that is much more evolved than that of something hundreds of millions of years old.
In fact, the layout of this ancient fossilâ€™s central nervous system resembles the organization of the brain in a modern scorpion, or spider, or horseshoe crab.
â€œThis was a very big surprise for us,â€ says Nicholas Strausfeld, a neuroscience professor at the University of Arizona and an author on the paper, â€œthat such an ancient animal had such a sophisticated brain.â€
The described fossil is a linchpin in scientistsâ€™ effort to piece together the evolutionary tree of the arthropods, the broad taxonomic group that includes modern insects, arachnids, and crustaceans and encompasses about four fifths of all known animal species.