KOPRI Repository

2017-2018, Early animal evolution and the primitive Earth system of north Greenland (17-18) / Park, Tae-Yoon S.

Principal Investigator
Park, Tae-Yoon S.
Project Period
Most of the organisms that we call 'animals' arose in the fossil record about 540 million years ago at the beginning of the Cambrian Period, and underwent a radical morphological evolution to attain the great variety of morphological blueprints that we see today. The morphological origin of the modern animals, therefore, lies in the Early Cambrian animal fossils. However, only the hard part of the animals, such as bones and shells, can get fossilized in normal condition, and less than 14% of animal species have hard parts in the body. This means that about 86% of the animals usually do not leave a hint in the fossil record. Nevertheless, there are several fossil localities around the world which yield fossils that preserve details of soft parts, such as eyes, guts, and appendages. These localities include Burgess Shale of Canada, Chengjiang biota of China, and Sirius Passet of North Greenland. In order to solve the mystery of the early animal evolution, Korea Polar Research Institute carried out a field expedition to Sirius Passet, North Greenland, and collected more than 6,000 specimens of diverse animal fossils from the Early Cambrian. The main research focus this year was on the early evolution of nervous system, including brain, in a stem-group arthropod. The newly collected specimens from North Greenland enabled us to reconstruct the almost complete shape of the stem-group arthropod, which provides a clue to the morphological origin of arthropods, the most diverse animal group in the history of Earth. Significantly, some of the specimens preserve the remnant of the brain of the animal, which was detected by Carbon elemental map.

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