Paleontologists discovered a 419-million-year-old fish fossil in China, which bares the earliest known link to the modern jaw and facial bones seen in humans today.
The discovery of Entelognathus primordialis “really is significant in helping to clarify this weird transformation – the evolution of faces, said paleontologist Thomas Holtz, Jr. of the University of Maryland at College Park.
The E. primordialis is evidence that facial bones and jaws in vertebrates have deeper origins that once thought.
The eight inch long fossil from the Silurian period is complete – a rare find. Its bones are still joined, and its head and shoulders are covered in armored plates.
The Chinese Academy of Science's Professor Zhu, who led the study, says the fish’s jaw is "similar to the modern fish, so we can see intermediary between Placoderms and modern fish or modern vertebrae."
During this animal's time, the earth was undergoing radical changes, Raw Story reported. From 450 to 440 million years ago, the planet suffered back to back extinction events. Researchers believe during this time the planet went from enormous invertebrate diversification to losing 60 percent of all marine invertebrates.
During the recovery period, the Silurian to the Devonian periods, animals like this fish were developing jaws, teeth, and apparently even faces.
E. primordialis bridges the gap between the prehistoric armored fish and modern fish, changing the widely accepted evolutionary path in the development of faces.
John Long, a professor at Australia's Finders University, told ABC News, "It's a huge discovery that fills a massive gap in our knowledge of the evolution of the first backboned animals."