Human origins traced to worm fossil

2012-03-06 07:10

Ottawa - Palaeontologists have traced the origins of humans and other vertebrates to a worm that swam in the oceans half a billion years ago, said a study published on Monday.

A new analysis of fossils unearthed in the Canadian Rockies determined that the extinct Pikaia gracilens is the most primitive known member of the chordate family, which today includes fish, amphibians, birds, reptiles and mammals.

The research published in the British scientific journal Biological Reviews identified a notochord or rod that would become part of the backbone in vertebrates, and skeletal muscle tissue called myomeres in 114 fossil specimens of the creature.

They also found a vascular system.

"The discovery of myomeres is the smoking gun that we have long been seeking," said the study's lead author, Simon Conway Morris of the Cambridge University.

"Now with myomeres, a nerve chord, a notochord and a vascular system all identified, this study clearly places Pikaia as the planet's most primitive chordate.

"So, next time we put the family photograph on the mantle-piece, there in the background will be Pikaia."


The first specimens of Pikaia were collected by early explorers of the Burgess Shale in 1911. But the animals were overlooked as an ancestor of earthworms or eels.

It was not until the 1970s that Morris suggested the 5cm long, sideways-flattened, somewhat eel-like animal that likely swam by moving its body in a series of side-to-side curves could be the earliest known member of the chordate family.

"In particular, it was our use of an electron microscope that allowed us to see very fine details of its anatomy," said Jean-Bernard Caron, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Toronto and the study's co-author.

"It's very humbling to know that swans, snakes, bears, zebras and, incredibly, humans all share a deep history with this tiny creature no longer than my thumb," he said.

  • gennath - 2012-03-06 07:49

    So it's not just the House of Slytherin? Who knew!

      Karmah - 2012-03-06 10:24

      Hahahahahahaha xD

      Sharon - 2012-06-07 14:03

      this explains why some people are the way they are

  • Fredster - 2012-03-06 07:58

    What a load of bull. If you want to believe that you came from a worm, go ahead. I don't.

      Godfrey - 2012-03-06 08:32

      Evolution is a simple fact. We can choose to remain ignorant of it, we can stick our fingers in our ears and refuse to think about it, we can even rail against it and shout and scream that it is not allowed to be true. But facts are facts, and will not go away just because we don't like them. We don't get to vote for our preferred method of having come into existence as a species, any more than we can choose to have been delivered by stork rather than conceived and born in the usual way. - Paula KIrby

      Joe - 2012-03-06 08:38

      Nobody said you have to believe anything. Stick your head in the sand and ignore the facts all you want. Science marches on and cares nothing for your ignorance.

      Godfrey - 2012-03-06 08:39

      @Fred I don't even know why you bother reading science based articles. I suppose it is like the Pope flagellating himself for non-existent sins. I am sure you understand evolution but deliberately carry on with your own version. Can't blame you really as keeping the ignorant tithing sheep in the flock is your meal ticket. Appearing monumentally stupid to educated folks is a small price to pay to collect all those donations from the ignorant tithers, hey?

      Merven - 2012-03-06 08:55

      'What a load of bull. If you want to believe that you came from a worm, go ahead. I don't.' If you think this is less convincing than a invisible god snapping his fingers, than go for it.

      E=MC2 - 2012-03-06 09:25

      & Godfrey - evolution is not a simple fact. its a string of possibly's, maybe's & could be's that are very cleverly woven together by people who dont have all the answers but would like to think that they do

      modo - 2012-03-06 09:26

      @E=MC2 Not at all. There is this awesome thing called evidence which renders faith obsolete.

      ry.short - 2012-03-06 09:31

      @ E=MC2 firstly, I find your chosen handle rather contentious. Secondly, stop trolling and do some work, brother. the adults are talking here.

      Godfrey - 2012-03-06 09:47

      @E=MC2 Only godbots think faith is a virtue. Belief: (n) 1. The act of accepting as fact a proposition that is not supported by evidence. 2. The refusal to question the acceptance of an unsupported fact despite the presence of controverting evidence. 3. The lack of interest or will in seeking knowledge, evidence or perspectives that would tend to argue against the acceptance of an unsupported proposition. It’s called “faith” because it’s not “truth.” Why does your god never turn up to do anything but prefers to stay away and embarrass and humiliate his followers?

      Phillip - 2012-03-06 12:35

      Godfrey my friend. In answer to your question. God does not need to appear to believers because they believe anyway. If God did appear to non believers they would have some excuse and say that they still do not believe. Now you have your answer. Incedentally if you replaced the word "Evolution" in your post with the word "God" the same would be said by believers.

      Godfrey - 2012-03-06 13:48

      Geez, Phillip You reckon you have seen this god then? Wow! Spoken to you has he? Wow! So all those childhood years when I went off to church and I never saw him were a waste. WOW! Just WOW, You have actually seen him. WOW!

      Fredster - 2012-03-06 13:50

      Godfrey...Do you believe that you come from a worm?

      E=MC2 - 2012-03-06 13:54

      @ry.short - just because you use words like contentious, doesnt make you an adult. I’m allowed to disagree about the fact that i dont think we all came from a "5cm long, sideways-flattened, somewhat eel-like animal" so how about you p1ss off & go do some work.

      E=MC2 - 2012-03-06 14:05

      @Godfrey - how exactly does God "embarrass and humiliate his followers?" i think his followers or those claiming to be His folllowers do that all by themselves... Idiots like ry.short make it all the easier for His followers to get irritated & say things they probably shouldnt. I dont try to shove my belief down anyone’s throat because its about a personal relationship with God that CANNOT be forced but has to be experienced. If i want to believe that, then let me. If you want to think im some kind of zombie who prays to some "imaginary" person in the sky, then whats the problem? Let me. If i choose to believe that the human body is far too complex to come from a freaking worm, THEN LET ME. How does what i think & do effect your life in any way whatsoever??

      Godfrey - 2012-03-06 14:51

      @Fred DO I have worms in my ancestory - and single cell organisms, and mammals of all kinds and primitive apes? Sure. That is how we all arrived here. But then I suppose you were delivered by a stork. Sorry, I cannot take seriously a guy who believes in talking snakes, donkeys, blokes living in whales, talking bushes, people walking on water, floating around in the sky, zombies, devils, demons and all manner of preposterous things. Time to grow up.

      ry.short - 2012-03-06 15:04

      @E=MC2 no, what makes me an adult is being wise enough to know that when presented with facts that outweigh whatever facts i feel i may have, my hypothesis is rendered invalid. I am an adult because i know that from that point the onus is on me to either find more evidence that supports my hypothesis or for me to start changing the way i see things because my viewpoint has been rendered invalid and thus the domino effect occurs to all facets of my existence. short version; i'm an adult because i know when to let go and move on, boet..

      ry.short - 2012-03-06 15:09

      and lastly @E=MC2 you're right. you are allowed to disagree. however, what you aren't allowed to do is dis-acknowledge. I don't like the fact that i have to share the bus with anybody else other than myself but that doesn't make the reality any less true. So by all means go about your day not agreeing but, until you or your ilk have any (pronounced "never-have-had-and-never-will-have-ever-ever-ever") evidence to the contrary or that proves the bible story as fact, you will have to face up to the truth at some point.. Reality doesn't change just because you really, really want it to.

      Fredster - 2012-03-06 15:17

      Hey godfrey...why are you so angry? Why should I respect what you believe in if you do not return the favour? I think you need to take a good hard look at what you are typing. No I do not believe I was delivered by a stork, you dork...answer my question furthur down, then I will believe what you say

      johannbruwer - 2012-04-25 23:18

      FAITH: According to science NOTHING exploded and expanded into EVERYTHING... BILLIONS OF YEARS AGO... MATTER just magically appeared out of NOTHING. Then it formed planets etc etc etc... we all know the supposed story. That's not science!! That's FAITH! There's ZERO scientific proof of that just like there's ZERO scientific proof of the living God's existence. Therefore the theory (Yes peep's that's right. Evolution is but only a theory due to lack of scientific proof)of evolution is nothing more than a RELIGION. That religion is called Atheism. Yes, atheism is a religion for you still have to BELIEVE that there is no God. There's no proof! Evolution is NOT a fact. You need PROOF for that.

      Sharon - 2012-06-07 14:04

      saw the zoomers worm in a painting

      Provence - 2012-06-07 14:06

      @modo, evidence yes, what does this prove, that once upon a time our ancestors were worms. Bro, you smoke big pipe with wailing dog.

  • Den - 2012-03-06 08:04

    did you come from an egg fredster? or did the swan make you? lol

  • uwe.klopfer - 2012-03-06 08:28

    so when we are referred as a low down maggot there is grain of truth in it ?

  • ZION - 2012-03-06 08:48

    What worm?

      balan.morgen - 2012-06-07 14:31

      @Fredster69 and Provence don't you guy's believe that you may have worms within yourselves, or what about bacteria and in medical practice maggots are used to clean wounds etc. Evolution is a reality, even the universe is expanding.

  • Barry John Havenga - 2012-03-06 08:49

    I get very annoyed when the most far fetched of theories are presented at fact. This is drivel.

      Richard - 2012-03-06 09:03

      No problem Barry, you too can disprove this "drivel". All you need to do is get the relevant degrees, masters and doctorates, propose an opposite theory as a hypothesis, then disprove the relevant theory with your research findings, which will be peer reviewed. These guys spent quite a lot of time looking at 114 tiny worms through an electron microscope. Your move?

      TSR01 - 2012-03-06 09:16

      As a biologically related species, and most primitive known member of the chordate family, it goes to logic that the historical and evolutionary links require the addition of this worm into the tapestry of human and animal development - unless we were there already when the worm was around (you and I certainly weren't), who are we to say that there were no means of transferals of DNA, genetics, mutations, and "evolutionary developments" (to be politically correct). A concept, if you would - ingesting a toxic creature with certain properties breaking down the genetic structure of the consumer allows for the mutations and deformations / "alterations" in the offspring of the parent. If that parent should die, and the offspring carry the dominant genes in its' offspring, then the mutation would be brought forward, and so on. That is just one concept of logically identifying possible and plausible theories behind evolutionary processes. :)

      ry.short - 2012-03-06 09:18

      Guys, I just figured out Barry's problem with all this. His daddy told him that he wasn't allowed to believe "this drivel". (and by daddy i'm referring to his imagined daddy in the sky..)

      Godfrey - 2012-03-06 09:55

      @Barry A god believer using the word "drivel". BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! You believe in a book that has talking animals, wizards, witches, demons, sticks turning into snakes, food falling from the sky, people walking on water, and all sorts of magical, absurd and primitive stories, and you say that we are the ones dealing in drivel. BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Drivel * choke * BWHAHAHAHAhahahaha!

      Fredster - 2012-03-06 14:35

      Godfrey, maybe you or some of your very learnered friends can answer this: When was the first human born then and how was the process. Did an arm come out first, or just a head, or how did it happen. If we evolved from the worm, when did the birthing start? Serious question, not joking

      zane.zeiler - 2012-03-06 15:14

      "When was the first human born then and how was the process. Did an arm come out first, or just a head, or how did it happen" Hahahahaha, good lord man! Where exactly or from whom did you learn about evolution Fredster69? You have just proved to everyone that you know absolutely nothing about the evolutionary process, so in the future please do not comment on these science articles.

      Clive.D.Buckley - 2012-03-06 15:19

      Fredster, your ignorance knows no bounds... Here, let me help you

      Fredster - 2012-03-06 15:31

      Still does not answer my question. When did the first human birth take place? thatere had to be a 1st one...come on guys, stretch your brains

      Clive.D.Buckley - 2012-03-06 15:42

      Fredster, I don't know why I am bothering... but here goes. ALL animals evolve slowly. over multiple generations. That is to say, a homo sapien baby did not just pop out of a homo heidelbergensis female one morning and modern humans started existing... the changes happen slowly, generation by generation. That is why humans are now a lot taller than we were 400 to 500 years ago! we are slowly evolving and continue to evolve

      johannbruwer - 2012-04-25 23:41

      Okay you ignorant fools why is there no fossil record of human evolution... half animal half human... half ape half man... And don't just tell me there is. Because I have done my homework. There is NONE... Over apparently millions of years and even dinosaur bones as old as goodness knows how many apparent millions of years that have been preserved you want to tell me there are no human remains to show this?? All fossils so far belong to a specific species that either used to exist or still does. Why aren't there any half man half apes running around today? We still have apes... and humans... and worms if you will... where's the in between's? To say it's FACT friends there still needs to be some proof... even if you are an evolutionist that can pretend that their 'theory' is a fact with media acceptance. Where's the scientific proof? All you proved was that there used to be worm... and that it had organs etc. Don't just bash us because we demand the same thing you do... Proof. And there is none... Every location in the bible can be accurately timed, located and traced. Even Noah's ark has been found or at least a vessel of exactly that size and age in the right place (and up a bloody mountain). That doesn't prove that God exists, I know. But it's more proof of the bible story than you will ever have if the evolution story. In my opinion because it doesn't exist (and we are all entitled to our opinions right?).

  • Richard - 2012-03-06 09:14

    Momentum caused by the Big Bang and circular motion cause by gravity acting on the matter subject to momentum combined to provide the conditions and ordered structure which are the origins of life. Maybe God set off the Big Bang. No-one knows. But one thing is for sure, the world as we know it was not made in seven days starting some ten thousand years ago. Maybe ten billion years ago.

      Fredster - 2012-03-06 15:37

      If momentum caused the bang, all the planets should be turning the same direction...they there goes that theory. There will be a big bang one day and I hope you are ready for it

      Clive.D.Buckley - 2012-03-06 16:17

      Goodness me Fred, you really should start watching astronomy documetaries on Television... the Planets in our solar system did not form until about 10 billion years after the big bang.... Do you actually even grasp to concept of the size of the universe???

      Fredster - 2012-03-07 07:15

      Nut, yes I do. I suggest you watch Louie Giglio's DVD to actually see how big it really is

      balan.morgen - 2012-06-07 14:48

      @Richard yes I also believe your theory that there is a supernatural power that created the universe with evolution of life. Evolution is a change of image of anything in a very slow process, continental shift, ice age etc. Adapt, Evolve or Extinct.

  • hendrik.voges - 2012-03-06 09:30

    What are these guys smoking? Must be REALLY good stuff!!

      Godfrey - 2012-03-06 10:02

      Yep, these sky daddy believers really behave exactly like druggies.

      jody.beggs - 2012-03-06 10:05

      Because its not in the Bible, it can't be true ? What r u smoking ? Any Christian that disagrees with this statement but enjoys the use of technology is just a big fat hypocrite! Why can't your sky daddy give you what you need anymore ? Damn the man.

      Fredster - 2012-03-06 15:21

      godfrey and do you know what you believe in is the truth? Take the time factor away from this article and it goes up in smoke. And by the way, what did hendriks comment got to do with are such a chop

      jody.beggs - 2012-03-29 09:50

      @Fredster69 I know what I'm talking about is the truth because there is actual physical evidence to what ever claims I make. Can you say the same ?

  • ry.short - 2012-03-06 09:40

    May I propose; if you are a religious type (bigot, zealot or otherwise) please, I implore you, leave the science section of News 24 alone. Why do you bother coming in here? Is it purely to start a faith-fight? Are your jobs THAT boring? If you know you aren't going to like what you read (PROTIP) don't read it?! Surely your "good book" has taught you this much? You guys are a constant source of SMH.

      Phillip - 2012-03-06 12:30

      ry. I trust that you will take your own advice when it comes to Christian articles.

      E=MC2 - 2012-03-06 13:50

      hahaha you carry on about others jobs being boring, but yet here you are... lol! Whos the troll now? im allowed to comment am i not? chop

      Godfrey - 2012-03-06 13:52

      @Phillip Your problem is that you don't have a clue about science and don't want to know. You choose to be willfully ignorant. On the other hand we happen to be well versed in religions, all different religions and want to know more. We want to know more because one god or other may just prove to be real. We have open minds. So far we have not found any.

      ry.short - 2012-03-06 14:59

      Yes Phillip, that is correct. I have studied the bible when i was younger (through no choice of my own) and then re-read it multiple times throughout my life (my own decision to look for real, factual answers) and it is because of this that i shy away from pro-christian articles because, it seems, they contain nothing but propaganda against anything that doesn't promote a pro-christian worldview.. that or people whining about evolution this, creationism that, homosexuals blah blah blah.. I was only 12 when i was intellectually capable of realising that the bible is fiction. what is wrong with everybody else? are they not smarter than a 12 year old? can they not think for themselves?

      Fredster - 2012-03-07 07:21

      Start with yourself..."Surely your "good book" has taught you this much"

  • Clive.D.Buckley - 2012-03-06 11:18

    Is the a case of "the early worm getting the bird"???

  • Garth - 2012-03-06 11:48

    Oh no! This cannot be true! For we were created in the image of the Lord, our father, in heave . . in heeeave, heeaavve, huuaaarggh, baarfff, baarrrfff, ugh, pitooey . . . sorry, fur-ball. Nice one . . . a lowly Pikaia in the family tree. Here's one for the creationists to get hot under the collar about. If you do not have delusions of grandeur, you do not have far to fall when you trip.

      TheSkepticDetective - 2012-03-06 12:01


      Fredster - 2012-03-06 15:38

      I will rather be created by God, then come from a worm...yuk

      ry.short - 2012-03-06 15:43

      @Fredster69 Bru, it doesn't matter what you'd "rather" come from. Unfortunately we don't get a say in that matter. I'd rather come from a dynastic royal bloodline and have millions of pounds at my disposal. Not gonna happen though. That's life. You can be miserable in your dream world or accept facts and live a loving, joyful life.. your call, bud..

      Fredster - 2012-03-07 07:16

      ry. Yes my friend I am extremely happy. I am a child of the most high God

      Clive.D.Buckley - 2012-03-07 11:53

      Most High God??? Must be good stuff he's smoking if he is he Most High

      balan.morgen - 2012-06-07 14:54

      @Fredster, what if the worm was created by God and you evolved from that worm.

  • E=MC2 - 2012-03-06 14:06

    Finally, an answer to where we came from... a 5cm long worm!! Awesome, tonight i sleep well.

      Richard - 2012-03-08 09:04

      All of us came from a 4 cm to 10 cm worm.

  • Richard - 2012-03-07 08:44

    @ Fredster69 Your response is simple ad hominem rhetorical rubbish. It adds no value to anything and is clearly a reflection of the vacuous mind behind it. And get your yourself correct too. I said "Momentum caused by the Big Bang", not "Momentum caused the bang". There is a huge difference - about 180 degrees. I came from a chordate worm, you clearly came from a nitwit. The only thing is that the worm developed into a human being with a preference for and capability of critical reasoning.

      Robin - 2012-03-07 14:18

      The worm actually didn't develop into anything. It died, and its offspring were a tad different. And then they died, leaving their offspring a tad different, and so on and so until all the tad differences added up to current life forms significantly different from the original worm. What can be so difficult to understand and accept than this concept?

  • Richard - 2012-03-08 09:23

    @Robin That is development. It took about 6 billion years. The earth is different to most other planets, partly because it has good stable temperatures caused by the atmosphere, partly because it has an ocean and partly because it has a large moon. Gravity, momentum and circular motion cause the combined action of the moon and sun to make high tides and low tides every twelve hours on earth. So that's 6 billion x 365,25 x 2 repetition cycles in the relevant period. Repetition supports the formation of order rather than entropy (or chaos). Order supports genetic development. Genetics is the basis of life. Maybe God added the emergent properties between order and life. Maybe he set off the Big Bang. But it didn't happen in 7 days. - 2012-03-15 12:52

      God could not have caused the Big Bang outside the very small nucleus where it all started there were nothingness and space only formed due to expansion after the Big Bang... Therefore no place for God, unless it is an infinately small God that could fit within that small a very small God that could survive all the explosions and expanded with the universe which mean God was created with the Big Bang and by human reasoning....

  • Keith - 2012-04-07 08:40

    Fredster69 asks whether I think I came from a worm. No, but my wife thinks so,

  • Grant - 2012-06-07 14:03

    @ zaatheist ..Yip you did come from a ape !!

  • balan.morgen - 2012-06-07 15:03

    @Fredster69, stop saying yuk to that 5 - 10 cm long worm that created you.

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