Evolution is the way of life and finding out about this evolution is important for survival. This species of fish however survived because their bones acted like batteries for them.
When the world came into existence, it is safe to bet that numerous organisms were present way before humans started living on Earth. We can’t exactly point out who were the first organisms appeared on Earth. According to popular opinion, single-celled organisms or microbes appeared 3 billion years ago in the waters.
Since almost 71 per cent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, we can say that even fish have been around for quite some time. We know much about marine life, but a species of fish, which is 400 million years old, suggests that bones evolved with time to act as batteries.
Scientists have studied fossils of ancient fish and uncovered a shocking truth about one of the essential parts of the human and other animals’ bodies: bone. Bones are responsible for keeping us upright. Without them, we would just be a puddle of mass. Bones keep changing to accommodate the body and organs of vertebrate bodies. These bones maintain, repairs and provide important nutrients to the bloodstream.
Of course, the bones of the first beings were much different from the bones we have now. The bones in ancient beings were more stone-like and would grow on the exterior of fish to provide a protective shell. According to a new study, the first bones in living cells evolved 400 million years ago and would act like batteries to supply prehistoric fishes with minerals and nutrients that were needed so that they could travel for miles.
The Structure of Osteostracans
The creatures that were analysed are known as osteostracans, but the lead author of this study, Yara Haridy, a doctoral candidate at the Berlin Museum of Nature, affectionately calls them beetle mermaids. These fish had a hard, armour-like front end, a tail that would grow on the backside and had no jaws. Their bodies would be encased in their bone tissues. This is a very critical observation to understand the origin of hard parts that helped vertebrate evolve.
Palaeontologists have been trying for years to solve this mystery. The traditional method would be slicing off the sections and examining the microscopic structures in two-dimensional slides. This method, however, does not provide an all-around picture of what bone cells actually look like.
The only way that Haridy could observe the bone structures that were previously inaccessible was due to a method that has been developed for observing materials science and other engineering applications. Haridy says, “I saw one of my colleague’s posters in the hallway with amazing images of pores in batteries, and they looked like cells.”
The method that was used is called Focused ion beam milling and scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM). This technology helps the observers create a detailed, 3-D scan. When the osteostracan fish fossils were scanned, it was beyond anything that Haridy expected. She said, “My amazing co-author Markus Osenberg nonchalantly sent me an email of early images, and I called him to make sure it wasn’t a model but our actual data; that’s how unbelievable it was.”
The Cells That Stayed
When the fossil was scanned, it did not show the actual bone cells because they had decayed a long time ago, which is expected. What the scans did reveal the cells that lived inside the ancient fish. Haridy said, “I was looking at a space where a little cell lived over 400 million years ago.”
While examining the scans, the researchers noticed that the bone tissue surrounding the cell cavities was eaten, which was not a sign of any disease or any injury. Instead, the cells had dissolved the tissue to send calcium, phosphorous, and other minerals into the bloodstream of the fish.
The Armour That Provided Energy
The cells acted like a battery and would release minerals stored in them for providing nourishment to the fishes so that they could swim better. These additional nutrients and minerals helped the evolution of cellular bones that influenced the trajectory of vertebrates. This is a piece of evidence that early bone cells acted as an armour of osteostracans and boosted the energy of the fish.
The FIB-SEM, however, scans the surface of the fossil, all the while destroying the specimen. It is not very ideal to use this technology as we cannot keep destroying these fossils. It, however, did provide shapes and connections between the cells, which was impossible before.
The Survival Secret
The positive thing about this is that now we know that fish were able to draw on the minerals stored in them and use them in time of need impacted life on Earth. Without this hard exterior, the fish might not have survived for so long and be able to undergo all the changes in the environment. Haridy also believes that vertebrates may have never made it on land without osteocytes as the bone batteries supply calcium for egg-laying and lactation. Much of these fishes and their evolution is still a mystery.