Ancient Fossil Fishes Had ‘Six Pack’ Abs, Study

A new study has uncovered 380 million-year-old armor-plated fishes that preserve the oldest muscles ever discovered in a vertebrate.

AsianScientist (Jun. 17, 2013) – Prehistoric fishes that lived hundreds of millions of years ago may have had ‘six-pack’ abs, says a new study from Australia.

A team of paleontologists, headed by Associate Professor Kate Trinajstic from Curtin University in Australia, has uncovered 380 million-year-old armor-plated fishes called placoderms from Kimberley, Australia that preserve the oldest muscles ever discovered in a vertebrate.

“We were stunned to find that our ancient fossil fishes had abs!” Trinajstic said. “Abdominal muscles were thought to be an invention of animals that walked onto the land but this study revealed that these muscles appeared much earlier in our evolutionary history.”

The study, published in the journal Science, used specialist synchrotron scanning at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France, to also show tendons arranged in a helix-like pattern that connected the tail skin to the muscles and helped propel the fish through the water like a modern shark.

The researchers conducted their study on fossils found in rocks of the Gogo Formation of north Western Australia, where previous work by Trinajstic had identified 3D preserved soft tissues including nerve and muscle cells in these fossil fishes, a remarkable discovery as normally only the fossil skeletons are found.

Corresponding author Professor Per Ahlberg from Uppsala University in Sweden said this time the team decided to go beyond identifying soft tissues, to mapping out the musculature of the entire fishes.

“We have managed to produce something close to a dissection guide for placoderms, nothing like this has ever been possible for such early vertebrates,” he said.

Co-author Professor John Long from Flinders University who found some of the specimens used in the work said the next stage is to understand how soft tissues evolved in the big evolutionary steps from early fishes to humans.

The article can be found at: Trinajstic K et al. (2013) Fossil Musculature of the Most Primitive Jawed Vertebrates.


Source: Curtin University; Photo: John Long.
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