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Ancient ‘sea woodlice’ had surprisingly complicated guts

Ancient ‘sea woodlice’ had surprisingly complicated guts

New Scientist

Image: James St. John

A rare glimpse inside a 510-million-year-old digestive system suggests feeding was a complicated business for the first arthropods. Even this early in animal evolution, some animals had a variety of structures in their gut for storing and processing food.

Arthropods fared especially well following the Cambrian Explosion about 541 million years ago, particularly the now-extinct trilobites, which occupied the oceans for about 270 million years.

About 20,000 species of trilobite are known, but only about 40 species preserve any traces of their digestive system.

Melanie Hopkins at the American Museum of Natural History, New York, and Zhifei Zhang at Northwest University in Xi’an, China and colleagues have now added two trilobites to this short list. Read more on…