News of the WeekPaleontology

Fossil Opens Window on Early Animal History

Science  03 Dec 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5446, pp. 1829
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5446.1829a

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In this week's issue of Nature, paleontologists present hundreds of astonishingly well-preserved fossils from a site in southern China, which may represent some of the earliest chordates--a broad group that comprises not only vertebrates but also more primitive invertebrates such as sea squirts and lancelets. The researchers think the new animal may have been an early vertebrate, but there's still some doubt, because they didn't find anything resembling a skull. Either way, however, the new fossils give researchers another eagerly awaited peek at the animals that set the stage for the evolution of the backbone, an important transition in the animal body plan.