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Ancient Shrimp Had Heart, Study Finds

Update Date: Apr 09, 2014 10:54 AM EDT

Researchers have discovered the world's earliest known cardiovascular system in a shrimp-like creature that existed around 520 million years ago. The findings shed new light on the evolutionary timeline of life existing on the Earth. 

The ancient shrimp-like creature has been found in the Yunnan province in the southwest China. The creature has been dubbed Fuxianhuia protensa who lived during the Cambrian explosions, researchers said.

"This is the first preserved vascular system that we know of," said Nicholas Strausfeld, University of Arizona Regents' professor of neuroscience, in the press release.

"Fuxianhuia is relatively abundant, but only extremely few specimens provide evidence of even a small part of an organ system, not even to speak of an entire organ system. The animal looks simple, but its internal organization is quite elaborate. For example, the brain received many arteries, a pattern that appears very much like a modern crustacean."

The fossil is only around 3 inches long and was well-preserved in a slab of fine-grained mudstone. Reconstruction of its cardiovascular system was only possible because of its state of preservation. Further, researchers surprisingly found that heart and blood vessels of the discovered creature appear even more advanced than the similar structures found in crustaceans and arthropods, TechTimes reported. 

"This is another remarkable example of the preservation of an organ system that nobody would have thought could become fossilized," Strausfeld said.

"With that, we can now start speculating about behavior," Strausfeld explained in the press release. "Because of well-supplied blood vessels to its brain, we can assume this was a very active animal capable of making many different behavioral choices."

The findings of the research have been published in the online journal Nature Communications. 

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