An exceptionally preserved arthropod cardiovascular system from the early Cambrian

Xiaoya Ma, Peiyun Cong, Xianguang Hou, Gregory D. Edgecombe, Nicholas J. Strausfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


The assumption that amongst internal organs of early arthropods only the digestive system withstands fossilization is challenged by the identification of brain and ganglia in early Cambrian fuxianhuiids and megacheirans from southwest China. Here we document in the 520-million-year-old Chengjiang arthropod Fuxianhuia protensa an exceptionally preserved bilaterally symmetrical organ system corresponding to the vascular system of extant arthropods. Preserved primarily as carbon, this system includes a broad dorsal vessel extending through the thorax to the brain where anastomosing branches overlap brain segments and supply the eyes and antennae. The dorsal vessel provides segmentally paired branches to lateral vessels, an arthropod ground pattern character, and extends into the anterior part of the abdomen. The addition of its vascular system to documented digestive and nervous systems resolves the internal organization of F. protensa as the most completely understood of any Cambrian arthropod, emphasizing complexity that had evolved by the early Cambrian.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3560
Pages (from-to)3560
Number of pages1
JournalNature communications
StatePublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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