A fish died in China 419 million years ago. And now it is telling us a story about evolution – a story that Dr. Xiaobo Yu of Kean University has co-authored.
Dr. Yu, a professor of biology at Kean, and several colleagues in China studied the fossil and concluded that it had a recognizable face with a complete set of jawbones. Why is that important? For starters, Dr. Yu and his research teammates believe the fish is the oldest identified creature with a facial structure we would recognize. Secondly, the presence of a jaw in the creature suggests new theories about how skeletons evolved.
The findings of Dr. Yu and his colleagues are creating a sensation in the world of science all around the world. For example, a paleontologist at the University of Chicago, Michael Coates, called the discovering a “little bombshell … It does present something we had no hint of before.”
The fossil’s facial structure suggests that the sturdy body armor of a placoderm – an extinct species of fish – evolved into a skeleton beginning with the face. That insight challenges conventional theories about the evolution of skeletons.
“This is like finding the nose of a space shuttle in a hay wagon from the Middle Ages,” said Dr. Yu, meaning that the presence of a jaw in such a primitive fish was completely unexpected.
Dr. Yu and his team uncovered the fossil in 2010 and have been studying it ever since. Dr. Yu's noteworthy discovery has been covered by major media outlets around the world including: USA Today, NPR, Daily Mail, National Geographic, Nature, The New Scientist, SF Gate, E-Science News, BBB News, The Conversation, Science 20 and The Huffington Post.