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The 300 Million Year Old Brain

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the neurons-must-be-slowing-down dept.

Biotech 68

Pickens writes "Paleontologists recently discovered the world's oldest brain nestled within a 300-million-year-old fish fossil of one of the extinct relatives of modern ratfishes, also known as 'host sharks' or chimaeras. These chimaera relatives, called iniopterygians, represented bizarre beasts that sported massive skulls with huge eye sockets, shark-like teeth in rows, tails with clubs, huge pectoral fins that were placed almost on their backs, and bone-like spikes or hooks tipping the fins. The brain shows details such as a large vision lobe and optic nerve stretching to the proper place on the braincase, which fits with the fish's large eye sockets. The ear canals of the extinct fish only exist on a horizontal plane so the fish could only detect side-to-side movements, and not up or down. 'There is nothing like this known today; it is really bizarre,' said John Maisey, paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. 'But now that we know that brains might be preserved in such ancient fossils, we can start looking for others. We are limited in information about early vertebrate brains, and the evolution of the brain lies at the core of vertebrate history.'"

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68 comments

Terrible News! Please read! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27060639)

At 10:28pm EST Rob Malda was rushed to the emergency room and was found to have a microscopic penis. Yes, folks, Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda, hero to many millions of slashdot nerds around the world, is hung like a 3 year old Asian boy.

btw frist post!

Re:Terrible News! Please read! (0, Offtopic)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 5 years ago | (#27060781)

We're not gonna ask how you have data for both sides of that comparison...

Re:Terrible News! Please read! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27061423)

citation needed.

Amazing (4, Funny)

eclectro (227083) | more than 5 years ago | (#27060647)

That it escaped all the zombies from back then. Dinosaur zombies.

Re:Amazing (-1, Troll)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 5 years ago | (#27060683)

It's easy to explain, really.

All the dinosaurs with any brains at all went home [slashdot.org] .....

I am trolling (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27060979)

Trolling am I.

Re:I am trolling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27061097)

Re:I am trolling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27061217)

You need to stop taking twitter so seriously

Re:Amazing (1)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 5 years ago | (#27063447)

Troll?

Cracksmoking mods with no sense of humour.....

Re:Amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27062167)

300m years ago called. They want their brain back.

Is going to cause some serious reexamination. (4, Insightful)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 5 years ago | (#27060707)

The brain in question is pretty small compared to the brain case. Since brain case size is the main method of telling how large a brain an animal had this is going to suggest some possible need to reevaluate that technique's accuracy beyond providing an upper bound on brain size.

Re:Is going to cause some serious reexamination. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27060853)

I guess this specimen didn't attend school.

Re:Is going to cause some serious reexamination. (3, Funny)

denzacar (181829) | more than 5 years ago | (#27063101)

It did attend school.

Only, as TFA said it - it was a Kansas school.
So it got a little confused about evolving a proper size brain. Or was that intelligently designing a proper size brain?

Re:Is going to cause some serious reexamination. (1)

Cowmonaut (989226) | more than 5 years ago | (#27064199)

While funny, I can't help but think that if it was a joke supporting 'intelligent' design it would of been modded Troll/Flamebait...

Of course not - don't be silly... (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 5 years ago | (#27065343)

What else can a support of "intelligent" design be but a joke?

Re:Of course not - don't be silly... (1)

modecx (130548) | more than 5 years ago | (#27065873)

What else can a support of "intelligent" design be but a joke?

What is a pity?

Re:Is going to cause some serious reexamination. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27073077)

"would of"? I suspect you are indeed a graduate of the Kansas Bible School system.

Re:Is going to cause some serious reexamination. (1)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 5 years ago | (#27067805)

It must have attended college and law school. It was a patent lawyer for SCO.

Re:Is going to cause some serious reexamination. (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27060907)

I believe the best way that we can extrapolate is by examining known intracranial volume of transitional fossils.

It's exciting times for evolutionary physiology in American research. Not only have we found the missing link [wikipedia.org] between Pan troglodytes [wikipedia.org] and Homo sapiens [wikipedia.org] , we elected him for president!

Re:Is going to cause some serious reexamination. (5, Insightful)

Meneguzzi (935620) | more than 5 years ago | (#27062393)

I am not a doctor, archaeologist, biologist or any other relevant profession, but is there not any shrinkage do body parts and organs as they lose humidity after death? Of course this is not necessarily a good comparison, but all the mummies I saw on museums had clearly shrunk with time, so is it not fair to assume that fossilized brains were larger when the animal was alive?

Surface (1)

DrYak (748999) | more than 5 years ago | (#27062469)

Also, the grey matter surface (cortex) plays a more important role than the total volume occupied by the brain.

Re:Is going to cause some serious reexamination. (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 5 years ago | (#27064107)

I'm by no means an expert in this area, but from my reading of TFA there isn't much sign of shrinkage in this case. In particularly, the optic nerves stretch out more or less as far as they should if there wasn't much shrinkage.

Re:Is going to cause some serious reexamination. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27067029)

Ah... it must have died in warm water...

Ah... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27060719)

So that's where that went!

Kansas? (1)

JoshDmetro (1478197) | more than 5 years ago | (#27060723)

Just a thought but that fish looks like a deep water ocean fish. Large eye for seeing in the dark. Is it a salt or freshwater fish? Why Kansas of all places?

Re:Kansas? (4, Funny)

anagama (611277) | more than 5 years ago | (#27060737)

It was transported there by rail of course. Airplanes didn't exist way back when earth that makes up Kansas was underwater.

Re:Kansas? (5, Funny)

Gregory Arenius (1105327) | more than 5 years ago | (#27061239)

It was stranded there after God flooded the Earth. Really. :)

Cheers,
Greg

Re:Kansas? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27062707)

Informative? Really, mods?

Re:Kansas? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27060831)

Why Kansas? Let me put it like this...

Though my eyes could see I still was a blind fish
Though my mind could think I still was a mad fish
I hear the voices when I'm dreaming
I can hear them say

Carry on my wayward fry
There'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary fins to rest
Don't you blub no more.

Re:Kansas? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27062027)

Why Kansas of all places?

'Cause there's no place like home.

Re:Kansas? (3, Insightful)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#27062703)

Large eye for seeing in the dark.

Large eyes might correlate with needing to see in the dark THESE days, but we can't really make that assumption about other times without (at least) hard statistics. It could be, for example, that all eyes were large eyes, until small eyes evolved.

Define irony... (4, Funny)

denzacar (181829) | more than 5 years ago | (#27063137)

We are limited in information about early vertebrate brains, and the evolution of the brain lies at the core of vertebrate history.'

But paleontologists recently discovered the oldest known example nestled within a 300-million-year-old fish fossil from Kansas.

Boy, are some intelligently designed people going to be pissed off at this fish.
Not only is it 300 million years old, but it is also not very intelligently designed with that "can't see up or down"-vision.
And all that right under their noses without them even noticing it.

One would think that the 300 million years old fishy smell would be a giveaway.

Re:Kansas? (1)

radtea (464814) | more than 5 years ago | (#27063445)

Just a thought but that fish looks like a deep water ocean fish. Large eye for seeing in the dark.

It's fairly common for fish that live near the littoral to have large eyes. Modern ratfish, of which this thing is an ancestor, have big eyes, and I've seen them in shallow water.

Not only is it dark half the time even at the surface, the amount of light available drops off very quickly with depth in most places due to plankton etc. Divers travel the world to find places with good visibility.

Furthermore, in high latitudes the amount of light that penetrates the surface when the sun is low in the sky can be amazingly small: I've been on evening dives in summer at 50 degrees north where it was pitch black at sixty feet even though it was bright and sunny on the surface.

So basically a lot of the ocean is dark most of the time, even within a few feet of the surface, and lakes are generally more turbid, which makes them even darker.

WTF? (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 5 years ago | (#27060827)

So does it still work after all this time or not?

Re:WTF? (1)

nu1x (992092) | more than 5 years ago | (#27062477)

Of course ! If there's a glaspipe around, there should be a sufficient motivation for it to hop around and light one UP ! :P

Re:WTF? (1)

Naomiah (559580) | more than 5 years ago | (#27065811)

How would it know? The bud from 300 million years ago probably hadn't even evolved to be sticky.

Host Sharks? (5, Informative)

nog_lorp (896553) | more than 5 years ago | (#27060861)

Please. Also known as ghost sharks makes a little more sense.

Re:Host Sharks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27061155)

An understandable mistake. The g is silent.

Re:Host Sharks? (1)

Samah (729132) | more than 5 years ago | (#27061211)

Please. Also known as ghost sharks makes a little more sense.

Wait, is that ghosts who became sharks, or sharks who became ghosts?

Re:Host Sharks? (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 5 years ago | (#27062421)

it was just a hostscript error afterall!

Joan Rivers? (1)

Forrest Kyle (955623) | more than 5 years ago | (#27060889)

When I first read the headline, I thought to myself, "What does Joan Rivers have to do with science?" =)

Re:Joan Rivers? (1)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 5 years ago | (#27074549)

What? You don't think of Joan Rivers when you think of something that is really, really old?

This research is useful... (5, Funny)

MillenneumMan (932804) | more than 5 years ago | (#27060937)

I am hoping they can apply the results of this research to finding brains in Senators and Congressmen

Re:This research is useful... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27076521)

They do, but in order to get good data they need to wrangle all of them together. Otherwise the test specimen is simply too small for proper testing. Also this test group tends to have an enlarged area within their brains known as the "Bullshitious to the Maximus" lobe, so the tests are naturally skewed. Better to stick with lab rats.

So they found one so long ago... (1)

MindVirus (1424817) | more than 5 years ago | (#27060947)

And can't find one now?

Tinfins 2 (1)

Safiiru (24501) | more than 5 years ago | (#27061209)

If ever any brain needed to be put in a robot body, it would be that one.

lasers (4, Insightful)

rogeroger (1125533) | more than 5 years ago | (#27061457)

those huge eye sockets may interfere with standard laser mounts

Re:lasers (3, Informative)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 5 years ago | (#27062075)

Only on /. could that possibly be insightful.

Re:lasers (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 5 years ago | (#27064751)

And only on Slashdot could your post be informative.

Re:lasers (1)

dino2gnt (1072530) | more than 5 years ago | (#27065557)

Wait, where's the +5, Funny? ??? Profit?

Re:lasers (1)

that IT girl (864406) | more than 5 years ago | (#27067203)

Aint it great?

Re:lasers (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#27068013)

Only on /. could that possibly be insightful.

What else can you tag a comment about eyes?

Re:lasers (1)

chadplusplus (1432889) | more than 5 years ago | (#27066837)

The huge eye sockets were the laser mounts. That's why the were so huge!

These chimaera relatives, called iniopterygians, represented bizarre beasts that sported massive skulls with huge eye sockets, shark-like teeth in rows, tails with clubs, huge pectoral fins that were placed almost on their backs, and bone-like spikes or hooks tipping the fins.

A beast like that MUST have lasers somewhere! . . . And big pointy teeth.

What? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27061725)

No "they saved fishy's brain" jokes? Not even a tag?`

You're getting old, people.

Re:What? (1)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#27066705)

Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

I fink so, Brain, but why do Slashdotters paint their toenails pink after eating custard?

Re:What? (1)

that IT girl (864406) | more than 5 years ago | (#27067431)

Some of us do! ;)

Re:What? (1)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#27071115)

What, ponder that? :)

Re:What? (1)

that IT girl (864406) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075949)

Haha, I was waiting for someone to call me out on that. One of those moments where you realise the awkward phrasing *after* it's too late.

I mean no, I meant it that way. And then I ponder myself pondering that. And so forth and so on and then holy crap infinite loop of ponderage.

Aby someone?! (2, Funny)

GlobalColding (1239712) | more than 5 years ago | (#27062189)

Igor: Yes, I believe that is what the label said. Maybe Aby Normal...

Upside down? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27062783)

From that drawing of what the fish may have looked like, it seems to me the fish spent its time upside down. The dorsal fins high up on the body there would be used as "legs" for hopping about on the sea bed. The gills are then angled away from the mud and crap dredged up from below. Having the mouth above the eyes might be useful if it feeds on smaller sea-bed bound critters. And being restricted to the floor would explain the wierd "2D" hearing mentioned in the article.

Just a thought.

As a means of defense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27062963)

But of course, prehistoric sharks would have clubs instead of lasers.

RIAA's lost brain (1)

tomrud (471930) | more than 5 years ago | (#27063165)

So they have finally found the brain that RIAA is missing.

Is it really bizarre? (3, Interesting)

macxcool (1370409) | more than 5 years ago | (#27063711)

It seems to me that the act of labeling this fish bizarre is itself bizarre. Just because proportions are not what we are used to seeing does not make them necessarily weird. Organisms are designed for the environment they live in and their physical characteristics reflect that. Perhaps interesting or unusual would be better adjectives ;-).

Unexpected (2, Insightful)

huckamania (533052) | more than 5 years ago | (#27065939)

Unexpected is a more apt description. I haven't read TFA yet, cause I like to read the funny on /. first, but it isn't unusual for modern scientists to describe some phenomena as bizarre because the universe did not yield the results they expected. What is interesting is the increase in bizarre phenomena which doesn't fit the current dogma.

A true scientist will admit that they don't have all of the answers. A great scientist will realize that they aren't even asking the right question.

It's all there in your HHGttG, or Kindle.

I thought the chimera were defeated... (1)

jacksinn (1136829) | more than 5 years ago | (#27064055)

[Enter Nathan Hale]

Summary is wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27065735)

..."also known as 'host sharks' "

BZZZZT. Ghost sharks is the creature you tried but failed abjectly to refer to. Host sharks? Lol, where did you come up with it?

I thought the chimera were defeated... (1)

clint999 (1277046) | more than 5 years ago | (#27072443)

those huge eye sockets may interfere with standard laser mounts

Amazing (1)

clint999 (1277046) | more than 5 years ago | (#27073017)

Are you pondering what I'm pondering?I fink so, Brain, but why do Slashdotters paint their toenails pink after eating custard?

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