Paleontologists from China and the United Kingdom have revised the description of an ancient arthropod species, Kylinxia, providing new insights into the evolutionary process of ancient animals. The findings were announced by the Institute of Paleontology at Yunnan University.
Liu Yu, a research fellow at the Institute of Paleontology at Yunnan University and author of the paper, noted that the Kylinxia was previously believed to have five eyes, including a pair of anterior eyes and three posterior eyes. However, the latest research indicates that the species actually had one central eye and a pair of lateral eyes.
Kylinxia, part of the Chengjiang biota from the Cambrian explosion, is a significant transitional representative for the origin of arthropods, making this new discovery of high scientific value. Liu explained that this research has helped clarify the evolutionary history of this species.
To gain a comprehensive understanding of Kylinxia’s complete morphology, the research team used advanced techniques such as micro-computed tomography (CT), computerized 3D modeling, and virtual dissection, enabling them to visualize the fossil in three dimensions. This study also refined and revised the morphology and quantity of the anterior and posterior appendages and trunk segments, proposing a new hypothesis regarding the evolution of the head in early arthropods.
The research was conducted by a collaboration between the Yunnan Key Laboratory for Paleobiology, the Institute of Paleontology at Yunnan University, the Chengjiang Fossil Museum in Yunnan Province, the University of Leicester, and the Natural History Museum in London. The Chinese team was primarily responsible for collecting fossil specimens, processing basic data, analyzing data, and confirming the research direction.
Robert O’Flynn, lead author of the study and a Ph.D. student at the University of Leicester School of Geography, Geology, and the Environment, expressed amazement at the preservation of the fossil animal. With the support of CT-scanning, they were able to digitally rotate the fossil and examine the face of an organism that lived over 500 million years ago. O’Flynn noted that the animal’s head possessed six segments, consistent with many living arthropods.
Han Jian, a researcher at the Department of Geology at Northwest University, highlighted the importance of new technologies in this research. Micro-CT imaging enabled the researchers to achieve unexpected results regarding the soft body morphology of common arthropods in the Chengjiang biota.
The findings of this research were published in the journal Current Biology. This study not only provides new insights into the evolutionary history of arthropods but also demonstrates the potential of advanced imaging techniques to reveal unexpected details in the study of ancient fossils.