A team of researchers recently discovered the oldest heart in the world, preserved in a fossilized prehistoric fish. The heart is 380 million years old. It will be helpful for researchers to understand the evolution of all back-boned animals including humans, over the years.
The discovery was made in Western Australia. The research, published in the journal Science, reveals that the heart belongs to a fish named “Gogo,” which is now extinct. Professor Kate Trinajstic from Curtin University, Perth, was the lead scientist on the research team. She told BBC that the team was extremely excited about the same as it was the biggest discovery of their life.
She said, “We were crowded around the computer and recognized that we had a heart and pretty much couldn’t believe it! It was incredibly exciting.” She added that this was a “crucial moment” in human evolution and the heart proved that “we have evolved early on”.
Usually, fossils only reveal bones while soft tissues are lost but at this location in Kimberley, where the Gogo rock formation happened, the minerals have preserved many of the fish’s internal organs, including the liver, stomach, intestine and heart. Prof Jong Long from Flinders University in Adelaide, Professor Kate’s collaborator, expressed that this was a “mind-boggling and jaw dropping” discovery.
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The diagram of the Gogo fish’s heart showed that it had two chambers as compared to the four chambers in humans’ hearts. The Gogo fish’s heart was a crucial stage in fish’s evolution as it was more efficient due to having two chambers and was more complex than the hearts of primitive fish. It converted a slow-moving fish into a fast-moving predator.
The Gogo fish is the first of a class of prehistoric fish known as placoderms and the first to have jaws and teeth. Before placoderms, the fish could only grow up to 30 centimetres. Placoderms, however, could grow up to 9 meters in length. They were Earth’s dominant life for 60 million years and existed millions of years before even the first dinosaurs.
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