This ancient fish may have been the first animal to have a face

Meet Entelognathus primordialis, a 419 million-year-old carnivorous fish whose fossil is providing the earliest known evidence of basic facial bone structures in an animal. Oh, and you're probably descended from it.

Prior to this discovery, all fossils from this particular geological era — the Silurian period — featured sea creatures without a face — jawless animals like lamprey and hagfish. But this guy’s got a jaw, a mouth, two eyes, and a nose.


The fossil: The jaw is towards the bottom right, and above the mouth you can see three perforations. At the far left is the eye socket, the next two being the nostrils.

This fossil displays characteristics of two types of prehistoric fish, namely heavily armoured placoderms and bony fish. The latter of these gave rise to all modern vertebrate fish — and subsequently amphibians, birds, and all mammals. Including you.

So it may be evolution’s first face — and it may be ugly — but that’s a distant relative you’re looking at.

Read the entire study at Nature: “A Silurian placoderm with osteichthyan-like marginal jaw bones.”


Related: Your oldest relative is a shrew.


Images: Brian Choo

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