Paleontology: 480-million-year-old arthropods formed orderly queues

October 17, 2019

Fossils of ancient arthropods discovered in linear formation may indicate a collective behaviour either in response to environmental cues or as part of seasonal reproductive migration. The findings, which are being published in Scientific Reports this week, suggest that group behaviours comparable to those of modern animals existed as early as 480 million years ago.

Collective and social behaviour is known to have evolved through natural selection over millions of years and modern arthropods provide numerous examples, such as the migratory chains of caterpillars, ants or spiny lobsters. Yet, the origins and early history of collective behaviour has remained largely unknown.

Jean Vannier and colleagues described several linear clusters of Ampyx priscus, a trilobite arthropod from the lower Ordovician period (ca 480 Million years ago) of Morocco. The trilobites, which were between 16 and 22 millimetres long, had a stout spine at the front of their bodies and a pair of very long spines at the back. In each cluster of trilobite fossils examined by the authors, individuals were arranged in a line, with the front of their bodies facing in the same direction, maintaining contact via their spines. The authors suggest that, given the scale of the patterns seen, this consistent linearity and directionality is unlikely to be the result of passive transportation or accumulation by currents. Instead, it is more likely that Ampyx was killed suddenly while travelling, for example by being buried rapidly by sediment during a storm.

The authors suggest that Ampyx probably migrated in groups and used their long projecting spines to maintain a single-row formation by physical contact, as they moved along the seafloor. This may have been a stress response to disturbance of their environment by storms, detected by motion and touch sensors, which motivated Ampyx to migrate to quieter and deeper waters. A comparable behaviour is seen in present-day spiny lobsters. Alternatively, the pattern may have been the result of a seasonal reproductive behaviour involving the migration of sexually mature individuals to spawning grounds. Knowing that Ampyx was blind, the authors hypothesize that the trilobites may have coordinated using sensory stimulation via spines and chemicals.

The discovery shows that a 480-million-year-old arthropod may have used its neural complexity to develop a temporary collective behaviour.
-end-
Article and author details

Collective behaviour in 480-million-year-old trilobite arthropods from Morocco

Corresponding authors:

Jean Vannier
The University of Lyon, Lyon, France
jean.vannier@univ-lyon1.fr

DOI

10.1038/s41598-019-51012-3

Online paper

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-51012-3

Scientific Reports

Related Fossils Articles from Brightsurf:

First exhaustive review of fossils recovered from Iberian archaeological sites
The Iberian Peninsula has one of the richest paleontological records in Western Europe.

Fossils reveal mammals mingled in age of dinosaurs
A cluster of ancient mammal fossils discovered in western Montana reveal that mammals were social earlier than previously believed, a new study finds.

Oldest monkey fossils outside of Africa found
Three fossils found in a lignite mine in southeastern Yunan Province, China, are about 6.4 million years old, indicate monkeys existed in Asia at the same time as apes, and are probably the ancestors of some of the modern monkeys in the area, according to an international team of researchers.

Scientists prove bird ovary tissue can be preserved in fossils
A research team led by Dr. Alida Bailleul from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has proved that remnants of bird ovaries can be preserved in the fossil record.

Biosignatures may reveal a wealth of new data locked inside old fossils
Step aside, skeletons -- a new world of biochemical ''signatures'' found in all kinds of ancient fossils is revealing itself to paleontologists, providing a new avenue for insights into major evolutionary questions.

Fish fossils become buried treasure
Rare metals crucial to green industries turn out to have a surprising origin.

New Argentine fossils uncover history of celebrated conifer group
Newly unearthed, surprisingly well-preserved conifer fossils from Patagonia, Argentina, show that an endangered and celebrated group of tropical West Pacific trees has roots in the ancient supercontinent that once comprised Australia, Antarctica and South America, according to an international team of researchers.

Ancestor of all animals identified in Australian fossils
A team led by UC Riverside geologists has discovered the first ancestor on the family tree that contains most animals today, including humans.

Metabolic fossils from the origin of life
Since the origin of life, metabolic networks provide cells with nutrition and energy.

Fossils of the future to mostly consist of humans, domestic animals
In a co-authored paper published online in the journal Anthropocene, University of Illinois at Chicago paleontologist Roy Plotnick argues that the fossil record of mammals will provide a clear signal of the Anthropocene era.

Read More: Fossils News and Fossils Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.