Myllokunmingia

A pen and ink drawing of an extinct relative of early vertebrates. It has a vaguely fish-like shape, but with no fins other than a long low dorsal fin along its back and a pair of similarly-shaped fins along the underside of its tail. It has small eyes and a row of six gill openings on each side of its body.

Myllokunmingia, from the Early Cambrian of China (~530 mya).

Just under 3cm long (or just over 1″), this tiny animal seems to have been a very close relative of the true vertebrates – almost a vertebrate itself but not quite there yet. A single known fossil specimen shows evidence of a cartilage skull and skeletal elements, five or six gill pouches, a large sail-like dorsal fin, and paired finfolds on its underside.

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