Brain and eyes of Kerygmachela reveal protocerebral ancestry of the panarthropod head

Tae Yoon S. Park*, Ji Hoon Kihm, Jusun Woo, Changkun Park, Won Young Lee, M. Paul Smith, David A.T. Harper, Fletcher Young, Arne T. Nielsen, Jakob Vinther

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
228 Downloads (Pure)


Recent discoveries of fossil nervous tissue in Cambrian fossils have allowed researchers to trace the origin and evolution of the complex arthropod head and brain based on stem groups close to the origin of the clade, rather than on extant, highly derived members. Here we show that Kerygmachela from Sirius Passet, North Greenland, a primitive stem-group euarthropod, exhibits a diminutive (protocerebral) brain that innervates both the eyes and frontal appendages. It has been surmised, based on developmental evidence, that the ancestor of vertebrates and arthropods had a tripartite brain, which is refuted by the fossil evidence presented here. Furthermore, based on the discovery of eyes in Kerygmachela, we suggest that the complex compound eyes in arthropods evolved from simple ocelli, present in onychophorans and tardigrades, rather than through the incorporation of a set of modified limbs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1019
Number of pages7
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 9 Mar 2018


  • Palaeontology
  • Evolutionary developmental biology


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