The brood-caring critter was an early arthropod called Waptia fieldensis. It was found in the renowned Burgess Shale deposit in Canada, and the remains had rested quietly in the museum for about 100 years before museum scientists, alongside researchers from the University of Toronto and France’s National Center for Scientific Research, took a new look.
“As the oldest direct evidence of a creature caring for its offspring, the discovery adds another piece to our understanding of brood care practices during the Cambrian Explosion, a period of rapid evolutionary development when most major animal groups appear in the fossil record,” said Jean-Bernard Caron, curator of invertebrate paleontology at the Royal Ontario Museum and associate professor at the University of Toronto, in a statement.
|An illustration of Waptia fieldensis (middle Cambrian) shows eggs brooded between the inner surface of the carapace and the body.|
“Clusters of egg-shaped objects are evident in five of the many specimens we observed, all located on the underside of the carapace and alongside the anterior third of the body,” said Caron.
The researchers observed at most 24 eggs carried by each animal, the clusters of eggs grouped in single layers on either side of its body.
Researchers say their find opens a new window on the different approaches taken to brood care by early arthropods.
“The relatively large size of the eggs and the small number of them, contrasts with the high number of small eggs found previously in another bivalved arthropod known as Kunmingella douvillei,” said the study’s co-author, Jean Vannier, of the National Center for Scientific Research.
“And though that creature predates Waptia by about seven million years,” Vannier added, “none of its eggs contained embryos.”
Read more at Discovery News