By Tanya Lewis, Staff Writer | September 25, 2013 01:14pm ET
| This 419-million-year-old fossil prompts scientists to rethink how the living groups of jawed vertebrates acquired their characteristic features.
: Supplementary Figure 16. Credit: Min Zhu et al, Nature
A newly discovered fish fossil is the earliest known creature with what might be recognized as a face.
Entelognathus primordialis was an ancient fish that lived about 419 million years ago in the Late Silurian seas of China. The finding, detailed today (Sept. 25) in the journal Nature, provides a link between two groups of fishes previously thought to be unrelated, challenging long-held notions of how vertebrate faces evolved.
Nearly all vertebrates belong to the group of jawed vertebrates known as gnathostomes. Sometime in the past, the gnathostome tree branched into two groups: cartilaginous fish (Chondrichthyes) such as sharks and rays, and bony fish and four-limbed animals, including humans (Osteichthyes). [See Photos of Fish-Face & Other Freaky-Looking Fish]