The long debate concerning whether the brain can be preserved after death or not, could come to a conclusion. Fossilized brain tissue found in arthropod baffled the scientific community, leading to a wave of rethinking concerning what happens after death.
During a recent paleontological research project, scientist from the University of Arizona have stumble upon something unexpected. What seemed like a common arthropod, at first glance, turned into an amazing scientific discovery.
The team of scientist managed to dig up the fossilized arthropod and take it to the institute for further examinations. Carbon dating comes in to suggest that the arthropod, by the name of Fuxianhuia protensa, went extinct over 520 million years ago. Among the earthly remains of the creature, scientists have found some traces of an unknown element.
By using state-of-the-art electronic microscopes, scientists were able to uncover something never yet seen. Hidden within a couple of slim carbon films, there were traces of perfectly preserved brain tissues. Moreover, by using the electronic microscope, the team of researchers were able to closely examine the tissue and to theorize on how it fossilized.
Fossilized brain tissue found in arthropod poses another question: how can a brain fossilize? It seems that the answer to this is rather complicated. In order for the brain to be perfectly preserved after death certain environmental conditions must be met.
For once, the animal would have to be buried pretty fast in order to preserve its earthly remains from being eaten by roaming predators. Another important fact, which is crucial in understanding how the process actually works, is the presence of a specific liquid. Scientist theorized that anoxic water (water that lacks oxygen and can lead to hypoxia) could be the key to the whole mystery. In the presence of this kind of water, the colony of bacteria that reside in the brain tissue would wither away and die due to the lack of oxygen.
If the bacteria inside the brain tissue are dead, then there will be no one capable of consuming it. Hence the neural tissue would remain perfectly preserved.
In order to test out this new theory regarding brain tissue fossilization, scientists conducted tests on cockroaches and sandworms. They intend to bury these critters deep inside mud, in order to recreate the conditions. They also theorized that the arthropod died due to rapid mudslides.
As the research goes on, scientists are hoping to uncover more facts regarding our natural history.