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Archive for Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Fossilized fish brain is from Kansas

March 4, 2009

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A recently discovered 300 million-year-old fossilized fish brain has its roots in the Kansas rocks that the city of Lawrence is built on.

The discovery marks the oldest-known fossilized brain, and it came from the collection of the Kansas University Natural History Museum, said Larry Martin, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and senior curator of vertebrate paleontology at the museum.

The brain was discovered in Grenoble, France, after fossils from the KU museum were analyzed with a particle accelerator in a process that produced 3-D imagery similar to a CAT scan, Martin said. The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The particular fish that produced the brain sample is called an iniopterygian, and it hearkens back to when an ocean covered parts of the Midwest. The sample with the brain probably came from around the Vinland area, Martin said, though fossils can be found in Kansas and Oklahoma.

These specimens were collected in the 1930s and 1940s, Martin said, long before the available technology existed to analyze them properly.

They were found throughout the region, largely at road cuts, Martin said. The specimens were mainly just the heads of fish — regurgitated from bigger fish that had digested the remainder of the animals. Over time, phosphate surrounded the heads (and other items, like shrimp, too), preserving them.

The specimen collectors would go out and scan for these nut-sized phosphate-covered items and crack them open looking for fossils.

The museum has thousands of them, Martin said, and they were simply sitting around in storage.

“There wasn’t anybody around here who (was) actually studying them,” Martin said. “That’s why we loaned them to the French.”

— Visit higher education reporter Andy Hyland's Heard on the Hill blog.

Comments

TopekaBlade 5 years, 9 months ago

In a few years it will be the Republican Speaker of the House in the state legislature.

Bob_Keeshan 5 years, 9 months ago

Where did all the people live when Kansas was covered by water?

Somebody call Connie Morris.

gr 5 years, 9 months ago

Why do these articles have to interject things like, "300 million-year-old" and "when an ocean covered parts of the Midwest"? Do those interjections have anything to do with discovering the fossilized brain inside the fossil? I saw nothing in the article which determined the age nor the ocean covering the Midwest nor pertained to it.

araker 5 years, 9 months ago

gr - How else would you think so many fish got into Kansas to become fossilized?

MyName 5 years, 9 months ago

gr:

I saw nothing in the article which determined the age nor the ocean covering the Midwest nor pertained to it.

That's probably because this information was in the published scientific article that this newspaper article refers too ("The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences"). And maybe the author wanted to make sure that people who read this article got a sense of what was in the other one, without, you know, actually reading the 10 or 20 pages of stuff.

woodenfleaeater 5 years, 9 months ago

Fossilized fish brains? Isn't that some type of delicacy?

gr 5 years, 9 months ago

"gr - How else would you think so many fish got into Kansas to become fossilized?"

araker, why does how fish got into Kansas and how they became fossilized have anything to do with scanning the fossil for a brain?

"That's probably because this information was in the published scientific article that this newspaper article refers too (“The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”)."

MyName, I had already looked and didn't see anything. What of this article makes you think scanning a fossil for a brain has anything to do with how old it was nor how or why it was found in Kansas or that it was even relevant to the topic of discovering the brain?

mcontrary 5 years, 9 months ago

Marion, at least it shows that liberals have had brains for a long, long time, unlike the conservatives who have yet to develop one.

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