June 19, 2024

New “Missing Link” Fossil Reveals Origin of Arthropod Breathing System

Erratus Sperare– the new missing link fossil. Credit: The University of Manchester
University of Manchester research study fellow David Legg, in partnership with a group of international researchers from China, Switzerland, and Sweden, has today announced a new fossil that reveals the origin of gills in arthropods.
Arthropods, the group of animals that includes scary crawlies like spiders and woodlice, are the biggest phylum in the animal kingdom and are found everywhere from the inmost ocean trench to the top of Mount Everest.
Research published on February 7, 2022, reveals the newest addition to the group is a 520-million-year-old (about 10 times as old as the dinosaurs) organism called Erratus sperare. Erratus sperare was found in the Chengjiang Fossil Site, a UNESCO World Heritage Site situated in Yunnan, China. The Chengjiang Fossil Site protects an ancient undersea community which included the loved ones of some widely known arthropod fossils like anomalocarids and trilobites.

” Thanks to this new fossil, Erratus sperare, we now have a much clearer concept. These gills also probably went on to evolve into the wings of insects and the lungs of terrestrial arthropods like spiders so were an extremely essential development.”
— Dr. David Legg
Modern water dwelling arthropods have biramous limbs, legs that have 2 parts– one for breathing and one for strolling– however how such specialised limbs evolved was a mystery. A few of the earliest fossil arthropods, like Anomalocaris, had swimming flaps that may have doubled as gills, but previously researchers didnt know how arthropods made the jump from these specialized flaps to the biramous limbs of modern arthropods.
Erratus sperare supplies the missing out on link between arthropods that used such specialized flaps and arthropods with biramous limbs. It has both legs and flaps.
Dr. David Legg, one of the authors of this research study, stated: “Fish arent the only organisms that have gills! Arthropods have gills too … they just have them on their legs. When it came to arthropods, nevertheless, we just werent sure where these gills originated from.
” Thanks to this new fossil, Erratus sperare, we now have a much clearer concept. These gills also most likely went on to develop into the wings of insects and the lungs of terrestrial arthropods like spiders so were an extremely essential development.”
Referral: “The advancement of biramous appendages exposed by a carapace-bearing Cambrian arthropod” by Dongjing Fu, David A. Legg, Allison C. Daley, Graham E. Budd, Yu Wu and Xingliang Zhang, 7 February 2022, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences.DOI: 10.1098/ rstb.2021.0034.

Arthropods have gills too … they simply have them on their legs. When it came to arthropods, however, we simply werent sure where these gills came from.

The Chengjiang Fossil Site maintains an ancient underwater ecosystem which consisted of the family members of some widely known arthropod fossils like anomalocarids and trilobites.