530-million-year-old fossil may contain worlds oldest eye, reveals study

530-million-year-old fossil may contain worlds oldest eye, reveals study

Paleontologists have found what could well be the oldest example of a fossilized eye the world has ever seen, preserved for over half a billion years. It belongs to a trilobite – a class of once-abundant early arthropods that peaked in the Cambrian Period and thrived in the world’s oceans for over 270 million years.

Side view of the fossil’s right eye

These days we think of the squat, three-lobed sea creatures as the distant ancestors of modern crabs and spiders, and fossil records have shown that these incredibly successful animals were among the earliest beings on Earth to possess a sense of vision.

In fact, they sported a type of compound eye – the optical organ crammed full of vision cells we still see today in flies, bees, and many other arthropods.

But even though researchers have seen evidence of compound eyes in Cambrian trilobite fossils before, the internal structure and function of these proto-eyes remained a mystery.

Now researchers from Estonia, Germany, and Scotland have described a truly exceptional find – a 530-million-year-old trilobite so well preserved, they were able to discern its compound eye at a cellular level.

“The trilobite to which [the eye] belongs is found in a zone where the first complete organisms appear in the fossil record; thus, it is probably the oldest record of a visual system that ever will be available,” the team writes in the study.

The remarkably preserved fossil, belonging to a species called Schmidtiellus reetae, was collected in Saviranna in northern Estonia.

Due to the local geological conditions during the lower Cambrian era, trilobite fossils collected there are known for exceptionally well-preserved exoskeletons – a feature that is often lost in finds from other parts of the world.

In this case, the trilobite fossil’s eye was partially worn away, revealing the internal structure in astounding detail.

The fossil was found in Estonia

The units that make up any modern insect’s compound eye are called ommatidia, and the researchers counted about 100 of these in the fossil. Unlike the closely packed modern bug eyes, these cells were more spaced out.

Additionally, the researchers couldn’t find much of a lens structure, which they say is remarkable.

“There are indications of round lens-like discs when the eye is studied from the outside, but from the internal aspect, no convexities that could effectuate any refraction of light can be made out,” the team writes.

One reason for this could be that the trilobite exoskeletons didn’t have the materials in their shells needed to form a lens that could refract light in the marine environments they lived in.

“This exceptional fossil shows us how early animals saw the world around them hundreds of millions of years ago,” says one of the team, paleontologist Euan Clarkson from the University of Edinburgh.

“Remarkably, it also reveals that the structure and function of compound eyes have barely changed in half a billion years.”

Indeed, it’s crazy to think that scientists can dig up the remains of a creature that’s been dead for over 500 million years and find that it had basically the same visual organs as many animals we share the planet with today.

The trilobites didn’t quite have the visual acuity of a modern bee, but they saw well enough to avoid obstacles and even avoid their terrifying contemporary predators. In fact, this early arms race is thought to have contributed to the evolution of increasingly useful eyesight in those primeval oceans.

“The ‘race’ between predator and prey and the need ‘to see’ and ‘to be seen’ or ‘not to be seen’ were drivers for the origin and subsequent evolution of efficient visual systems, as well as for protective shells,” the team writes in the study.

“In its principal structure, it was simpler than, but otherwise almost identical to, that of the modern compound eyes of bees and dragonflies living today.”

1,000-Year-Old  Bible Found in Turkey Shows Images of Jesus

1,000-Year-Old  Bible Found in Turkey Shows Images of Jesus

The discovery was made in the central Turkish town of Tokat by officials carrying out an operation to stop priceless artifacts from being smuggled out of the country.

The Turkish Police uncovered a valuable collection of jewellery, 53 ancient coins as well as two rings and two arrowheads.

It is not known where the Bible originates from, and its cover was damaged, but, inside, were pictures made of gold leaves said to show Jesus Christ, Mary and across, as well as text written in the old Assyrian language.

Researcher lists through 1,000-year-old Bible, written in the old Assyriac language and illustrated with religious motifs made of gold leafs

Turkish news organization Anadolu Agency shared a video online of the book which was later revealed by the YouTube channel “Let Me Know” in a 2020 mini-documentary.

The series explained: “The authorities swooped in after being tipped off about a trio of suspected criminals trying to offload their stolen goods.

“They uncovered jewellery and over 50 historic coins of varying shapes and sizes during the operations.

“But one item was of more historic value – a Bible that could be as much as 1,000 years old, and, while the cover of the book had some damage, many of the remaining 50-odd pages are in pretty good condition.

The authorities swooped in after being tipped off about a trio of suspected criminals

Let Me Know

“Inside, many of the pages reveal beautiful, faded imagery, religious symbols and pictures are visible – many made with delicate sheets of gold.

“The book contains one clear image of a cross, another illustration appears to be a mother – perhaps Mary – and other images depict Jesus Christ and other figures from Christianity.”

Tokat has emerged in recent years as a centre of smuggling activities in rare artefacts. This reputation was cemented in 2015 when “Orphan Man, Standing,” an authentic oil painting by Vincent van Gogh, was found in the boot of a vehicle owned by a suspected artefact smuggler.

This led to authorities implementing stricter checks within Tokat and an undercover operation to pin-down sellers.

The documentary added: “Significantly, in early 2015, anti-smuggling police discovered an old painting, completed of oils during a vehicle search of the city.

“But this wasn’t just any old oil picture, in fact, the piece was believed to be the work of a globally-respected master artist – Vincent van Gogh.

“The painting was deemed to be the real thing and later that year police uncovered even more important artefacts in another undercover sting.

“They successfully recovered the antiquities after a number of actioned designed to capture these suspected smugglers.”

Theologians hoped the Bible would offer valuable insights into the way Christianity has developed in the past century, but there has been no new research shared since the find.

3,500 Years old Bronze Age skull shows women always loved jewellery

3,500 Years old Bronze Age skull shows women always loved jewellery.

A female skeleton around 3,500 years old has been found wearing a “designer” headband comprising tiny bronze spirals. Another evidence showing women have always loved jewellery!

She may have walked the earth thousands of years ago, but this woman was clearly as fond of a nice piece of jewellery as the average 21st Century girl, who is very likely to wear these beautiful rings from Adina’s Jewels, or somewhere similar, to accessorize their chosen outfit for the day.

It is believed to date back to between 1550 and 1250 BC and discovered in eastern Germany, has shown possible evidence that women have always been fond of jewellery.

Close up of skeleton with an ornate headband.

The Middle Bronze Age woman had been buried wearing an elaborate headband made up of tiny bronze spirals. The skeleton was found from Rochlitz, south of Halle in eastern Germany, while construction was underway to build a new rail track.

The discovery has provided historians an insight into how the spirals were worn in the Middle Bronze Age, Tomoko Emmerling, the museum’s press officer, said.

Staff at the State Museum of Prehistory in Halle, where the skeleton is now on display as part of its permanent exhibition, said similar spirals uncovered in the past had been found separate and loose.

The State Museum of Prehistory in Halle is also home to the Nebra Sky Disk, which dates back to the early Bronze Age and is thought to have been an astronomical instrument.

Nebra Sky Disk, which is thought to have been an astronomical instrument in the Bronze Age.

So why do girls love jewellery? There are a couple of reasons that come to mind:

The ladies love to look pretty. For one thing, women are touted as more stylish and more conscious when it comes to looking fashionable and presentable.

Compared to the men, the ladies put so much care into their appearances, and the truth is society puts so much expectation for them to look well.

So to make themselves appear more presentable, it has always been set — perhaps since the beginning of civilization — that girls must always wear pretty things especially when it comes to clothing, shoes, accessories or jewellery. And sometimes, it is not just about wearing any type of jewellery.

Some girls even go the extra mile by wearing bright and coloured pieces that really command attention.

The more the pieces grab the interest of the people around her, the more it is appealing to wear.

Egyprian Queen Nefertiti Wearing Jewellery.

This is not to say, however, that many women are vain about looking good and getting praises for it. But then again, whether folks admit this or not, vanity while considered a vice by some, can also be a good thing, especially among the female population. Because there is nothing wrong with looking pretty and using jewellery to do just that.

A trove of 5,000-year-old artifacts returns to Ecuador

A trove of 5,000-year-old artifacts returns to Ecuador

Almost 40 years after the objects were moved to Canada for research, a series of artifacts from one of the most ancient settled civilizations in America was returned to Ecuador.

Although historical artifacts and art treasures have become fairly common in their places of origin, the current case is special because the objects were accompanied by media containing everything the scholars in Canada learned about them over the course of four decades.

The documents, pottery, gems and sculptures belonged to Valdivia Culture, which flourished between 3800 and 1500 BC in present-day Ecuador.

Besides the artifacts, the 166 crates that arrived on June 5 at San Francisco de Quito University in the Ecuadorian capital held five human skeletons.

The project began during an era when “there was not much in the way of technical-legal norms” regarding the shipment abroad of archaeological goods, Joaquin Moscoso, director of Ecuador’s National Institute of Cultural Patrimony, told EFE.

In 1982, he said, thousands of Valdivia items were taken to Canada from a dig in the southwestern coastal province of Santa Elena.

Their return to Ecuador came at the initiative of James Scott Raymond, professor of archaeology at the University of Calgary.

“They didn’t just return objects and fragments, but all of the scientific information,” Moscoso said, crediting Raymond and his team for carrying out one of the most “solid and interesting” studies of the Valdivia Culture, which was uncovered in the mid-1950s.

The work done in Canada on the Santa Elena artifacts led scholars to change some of their views on the development of settled cultures in the Americas, according to Florencio Delgado, head of the Quito’s university’s Archaeology Institute.

“Until this study, it was thought that the first populations in the New World who made ceramics were on the seacoast,” he said. “Now we know that the first ceramicists were farmers and they lived inland.”

The more than 10,000 items and fragments in the shipment from Canada include examples “of the oldest ceramics that have been found so far” on the western side of the Pacific Ocean, Delgado said.

While the abundance of feminine ceramic figures, known collectively as the “Venus of Valdivia,” has led some researchers to speculate that the Valdivia Culture was a matriarchal society.

“There are also human remains and now that it’s easier to do DNA (tests), the collection is ready for those scholars who are seeking to understand processes of settlement,” Delgado said.

Looking forward, he expressed the hope that the repatriation of the Valdivia collection from Canada will spur an effort to compile an inventory of Ecuadorian artifacts taken abroad for study.

Ideally, such an inventory would include information on the condition of the items, whether they are under active study, and if it makes sense to request their repatriation.

“There are times it’s better that they stay where they are because they are being investigated and they are being protected. And frequently, we can’t do that,” Delgado said.

Excavation in Northern Iran Recovers Early Islamic Artifacts

Excavation in Northern Iran Recovers Early Islamic Artifacts

During an archeological excavation process that is currently being carried out in a century-long congregational mosque in Rasht, the capital of the Gilan province in northern Iran, historical artifacts have been discovered.

Saturday, the Deputy Provincial Tourism Chief Vali Jahani announced that “the excavations within the historic Saphi Mosque of Rasht had led to the discovery of items with historical values which appear to have been discovered below Islamic era tombs.

“A glass scent-bottle, a pottery handmade bowl, and other glassware are the objects. And the placement of these objects in the lower layers of Islamic-era tombs shows the importance of this historical area,” the official said, CHTN reported.

Excavations at Iranian mosque unearth new evidence on life in early Islamic era

Earlier this month, several ancient glazed tiles were unearthed beneath the mosque while a team of restorers was digging into its mihrab.

Mihrab is a semicircular niche in the wall of a mosque that points out the qibla, the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca and hence the direction that Muslims should face when praying.

Referring to a restoration project, which initially led to such discoveries in the mosque, the official explained “The restoration project has been temporarily suspended to leave the ground for archaeological surveys.”

“Given that the discovered objects will be very useful in the dating of the city of Rasht, so fragments of these works will be sent to advanced laboratories in the country to obtain the absolute antiquity of the objects, and dating will be conducted via the thermoluminescent approach.”

“According to the present evidence, these historical objects discovered from the Safi Mosque belong to the Ilkanind and Timurid periods,” he concluded.

In the month of Farvardin (Mach 20 – April 19) a trench measuring 1.5 m by 1.5 m was carved in the mosque’s shabestan (an underground space that can be usually found in the traditional architecture of mosques in ancient Iran), which resulted in recognizing some additional sections.

Safi Mosque, also known as Sefid and Shahidiyeh Mosque, which is widely considered as the oldest standing monuments in Rasht, was reportedly established before Shah Ismail, the Safavid monarch, assumed power (in 1501).

Extinction of Icelandic walrus coincides with Norse settlement

The Vikings may have caused one of the earliest animal extinctions associated with humans

In Iceland, there are no walruses, but there were hundreds at one time . The time of the disappearance of the walruses indicates the loss of population may be one of the earliest known examples of people leading a sea species to local extinction.

The ghost of walruses past

Walruses used to be a major feature of life in Iceland. Several settlements and landmarks along Iceland’s coast still bear names that refer to walruses, and a few of the medieval Sagas (the stories of the island’s early settler families) even mention them.

The Saga of Hrafin Sveinbjarnarson, written down sometime in the late 1100s, tells the story of a chieftain who killed a walrus and brought its tusks and skull to Canterbury Cathedral in England. But the walruses themselves have been reduced to only a few ancient bones and tusks.

A crosier carved from walrus ivory found in Scandinavia dating to around 1100 AD.

Did the walruses disappear before or after the Norse arrived? In other words, did the Norse kill off Iceland’s walruses, or did the population die of natural causes? Because Iceland has no living walruses today, historians have debated whether the place names referred to places where walruses were living when people arrived or just places where settlers found the skulls and tusks of long-dead animals.

The walrus tusks that Hrafin Sveinbjarnarson delivered to England could have been part of a thriving Icelandic walrus population, but it could also have been only a lost wanderer from more distant shores.

To learn more about Iceland’s pinniped past, evolutionary genomicist Xenia Keighley of the University of Copenhagen and her colleagues’ radiocarbon dated and sequenced DNA from 34 samples of bones and tusks from walruses in the Icelandic Museum of Natural History.

The DNA studies also showed that Iceland’s long-lost walruses were a distinct branch of the walrus family. The oldest walrus remains in the museum, dating to 5502-5332 BCE, were related to the ancestors of today’s Atlantic walrus population.

More recent samples, though, belonged to a separate mitochondrial branch of the walrus family tree, genetically distinct from every group that’s known in the North Atlantic—including the older Icelandic walruses.

“I would suspect that the most recent clade represent a colonization event that replaced the lineage represented by the old sample, rather than the old sample being a direct ancestor to the more recent clade,” co-author Morten Olsen, also an evolutionary genomicist at the University of Copenhagen, told Ars.

Radiocarbon dates of the bones, combined with the walruses’ genomes, provided an estimate of the size of their breeding population, which suggested that walruses had lived on Iceland’s coasts for around 7,500 years.

Although their numbers had been small—perhaps around 1,000 walruses at any one time—their foothold on the island had been pretty stable until around 1213-1330 CE, well after Norse settlement began in 870 CE.

Blame the Vikings

So what happened to Iceland’s walruses? As always, the answer is complex, but much of the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the Norse.

Settlers arrived in Iceland and began hunting walrus for the European ivory trade at a time when Iceland’s walrus population was already struggling with a shifting environment and a series of volcanic eruptions.

Painting depicting the Vikings landing in Iceland.

Walrus ivory was a major trade commodity in markets across Europe for much of the early Middle Ages, and the Norse hunted walrus around most of their territory in the North Atlantic. 

According to a 2020 study of DNA from walrus skulls and tusks found in Western European archaeological sites, most of Europe’s supply of walrus ivory came from a walrus clade (a group of related animals with a common ancestor) living in Greenland, which was home to tens of thousands of walruses.

Iceland’s much smaller walrus population would have been a drop in the bucket by comparison, but the ivory trade would still have put pressure on Iceland’s small population.

When the first Norse hunters reached them, Icelandic walruses were already facing challenges from the Medieval Warm Period (700 to 1100 CE).

A few centuries of relatively warm climate in the North Atlantic were helpful to human explorers, but not so great for walruses, which rely on sea ice as a place to haul themselves out of the water. And at the same time, volcanoes erupted several times near some of the walruses’ key haul-out sites on land. It’s no wonder the walruses couldn’t survive all of that and Vikings.

Some evidence suggests that a Roman fishing industry may have wiped out grey whales in the North Atlantic a few hundred years before the Viking Age, but otherwise, the Norse may have been the first to wipe out a whole population of animals for profit.

A Fossilised Skull Has Revealed When The Last ‘Siberian Unicorn’ Lived on Earth

A Fossilised Skull Has Revealed When The Last ‘Siberian Unicorn’ Lived on Earth

The unicorn first emerged nearly 2.5 million years ago but is believed to have disappeared 350,000 years ago.

However, researchers from Tomsk State University in Siberia, Russia, now believe that Elasmotherium Sibiricum may have been around till as recently as 29,000 years ago.

“Most likely, it was a very large male of very large individual age. The dimensions of this rhino are the biggest of those described in the literature, and the proportions are typical,” said Andrey Shpanski, a paleontologist at Tomsk State University.

A 1903 reconstruction of the Siberian Elasmotherium by W. Kobelt gave the animal a thick coat of shaggy hair.

The researchers are still trying to find out how the unicorn survived longer than other species that became extinct hundreds of thousands of years earlier.

According to early descriptions, the Siberian unicorn stood at roughly 2 metres (6.6 feet) tall, was 4.5 metres (14.7 feet) long, and weighed about 4 tonnes.

That’s closer to woolly mammoth-sized than horse-sized. Despite its very impressive stature, the unicorn probably was a grazer that ate mostly grass.

So, if you want a correct image in your head, think of a fuzzy rhinoceros with one long, slender horn protruding from its face instead of a short, stubby one like today’s rhinos. 

The skull, which was remarkably well-preserved, was found in the Pavlodar region of Kazakhstan. Researchers from Tomsk State University were able to date it to around 29,000 years ago via radiocarbon dating techniques.

Skeleton of the rhino at the Stavropol Museum

Based on the size and condition of the skull, it was likely a very old male, they suggest, but how it actually died remains unknown. 

The question on researchers’ minds is how this unicorn lasted so much longer than those that died out hundreds of thousands of years earlier.

“Most likely, the south of Western Siberia was a refúgium, where this rhino persevered the longest in comparison with the rest of its range,” said one of the team, Andrey Shpanski.

“There is another possibility that it could migrate and dwell for a while in the more southern areas.”

The team hopes that the find will help them better understand how environmental factors played a role in the creature’s extinction, since it seems like some may have lasted a lot longer than previously thought by migrating across great distances. 

Knowing how the species survived for so long, and potentially what wiped it out in the end, could allow us to make more informed choices about the future of our own species, as we find ourselves in a rather perilous situation. 

Scientists In Kansas Discover 91-Million Year Old Fossil Of A Shark That Had Cannibal Babies

Scientists In Kansas Discover 91-Million Year Old Fossil Of A Shark That Had Cannibal Babies

A newly discovered Cretodus Houghtonorum fossil shark aged 91 million years old in the Kansas region is part of the list of large dinosaur-era animals.

Researchers have identified the remains of an entirely new species of prehistoric shark in Kansas, which lived during the age of the dinosaurs and may have measured around 17 feet in length.

Cretodus houghtonorum was a spectacular, almost 7 feet long shark, or slightly more than 5 meters long, preserved in sediment deposited in an ancient ocean called the West’s Inland Waterway which covers North America during the Late Cretaceous period (144 million to66 million years ago), based on a study published in the Journal of Vertebrate paleontology.

In 2010, researchers Kenshu Shimada and Michael Everhart and 2 people of central Kansas, Fred Smith and Gail Pearson, found and excavated the fossil shark on the ranch near Tipton, Kansas.

Researchers excavate a farm in Kansas where the Credotus teeth were found

Shimada is a professor of paleobiology at DePaul University in Chicago. He and Everhart are both adjunct research associates at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas.

The species name houghtonorum is in honor of Keith and Deborah Houghton, the landowners who donated the specimen to the museum for science. Although a largely disarticulated and incomplete skeleton, it represents the best Cretodus specimen discovered in North America, according to Shimada.

The discovery consists of 134 teeth, 61 vertebrae, 23 placoid scales and fragments of calcified cartilage, which when analyzed by scientists provided a vast amount of biological information about the extinct shark.

A tooth belonging to a Credotus houghtonorum, which lived 91 million years ago in the ocean that once covered the Great Plains, including Kansas

Besides its estimated large body size, anatomical data suggested that it was a rather sluggish shark, belonged to a shark group called Lamniformes that includes modern-day great white and sand tiger sharks as distant cousins, and had a rather distinct tooth pattern for a lamniform shark.

“Much of what we know about extinct sharks is based on isolated teeth, but an associated specimen representing a single shark individual like the one we describe provides a wealth of anatomical information that in turn offers better insights into its ecology,” said Shimada, the lead author on the study.

“As important ecological components in marine ecosystems, understanding about sharks in the past and present is critical to evaluate the roles they have played in their environments and biodiversity through time, and more importantly how they may affect the future marine ecosystem if they become extinct,” he said.

During the excavation, Shimada and Everhart believed they had a specimen of Cretodus crassidens, a species originally described from England and subsequently reported commonly from North America.

However, not even a single tooth matched the tooth shape of the original Cretodus crassidens specimen or any other known species of Cretodus, Shimada said.

“That’s when we realized that almost all the teeth from North America previously reported as Cretodus crassidens belong to a different species new to science,” he noted.

The growth model of the shark calibrated from observed vertebral growth rings indicates that the shark could have theoretically reached up to about 22 feet (about 6.8 meters).

“What is more exciting is its inferred large size at birth, almost 4 feet or 1.2 meters in length, suggesting that the cannibalistic behavior for nurturing embryos commonly observed within the uteri of modern female lamniforms must have already evolved by the late Cretaceous period,” Shimada added.

Furthermore, the Cretodus houghtonorum fossil intriguingly co-occurred with isolated teeth of another shark, Squalicorax, as well as with fragments of two fin spines of a yet another shark, a hybodont shark.

“Circumstantially, we think the shark possibly fed on the much smaller hybodont and was in turn scavenged by Squalicorax after its death,” said Everhart.

Discoveries like this would not be possible without the cooperation and generosity of local landowners, and the local knowledge and enthusiasm of amateur fossil collectors, according to the authors.

“We believe that continued cooperation between paleontologists and those who are most familiar with the land is essential to improving our understanding of the geologic history of Kansas and Earth as a whole,” said Everhart.

The new study, “A new large Late Cretaceous lamniform shark from North America with comments on the taxonomy, paleoecology, and evolution of the genus Cretodus,” will appear in the forthcoming issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

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