In Canada, paleontologists have followed back the beginnings of many vertebrates and humans to this worm that was swimming in the ocean a half billion years ago. New fossils have been discovered in the mountains of the Canadian Rockies. The new analysis has found that the Pikaia gracilens is one of the oldest members of the Chordate family. This family includes the fish, birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles today.
The scientific journal in Britain called the Biological Reviews is where the research has been published. During the research the paleontologists have been able to identify a bone that would be a part of the vertebrate backbone. They have also found myomeres, which is muscle tissue in the skeleton in one hundred fourteen specimens of this creature. In addition, the researchers have discovered a vascular system. With finding all these things the study can clearly say that this worm isa primitive chordate.
In 1911, the Burgess Shale early explorers collected the first specimens of the Pikaia but they were not thought of as being an ancestor of eels or earthworms. In the 1970’s, Simon Conway Morris, of the Cambridge University and the lead author of the study, made the suggestions that the 2-inch long worm like creature flattened and sideways, looked somewhat like an eel-like animal. He was referring to the ones that swam and moved their body’s side-to-side. With the help of the electron microscope they could see the intricate details of the creature’s anatomy.