The eyes have it

Look: Ancient predator found 500 million years later with brain still intact

Animation by Sabrina Cappelli © Royal Ontario Museum

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One of the smallest to ever exist was Stanleycaris hirpex.

The species ranged in size from one to just over eight centimeters long.

Animation by Sabrina Cappelli © Royal Ontario Museum

And while it may be tiny, S. hirpex is helping researchers unravel huge evolutionary mysteries.

Art by Sabrina Cappelli © Royal Ontario Museum

Photo by Jean-Bernard Caron, © Royal Ontario Museum

The specimens are so well-preserved that their brains and nervous system tissues are still intact.

Animation by Sabrina Cappelli © Royal Ontario Museum

Photo by Jean-Bernard Caron © Royal Ontario Museum

Radiodonts are often found in fragments, making the discovery of so many whole-body fossils a jackpot for researchers.

“Since most radiodonts are only known from scattered bits and pieces, this discovery is a crucial jump forward in understanding what they looked like and how they lived.”

Jean-Bernard Caron, study co-author and curator at the Royal Ontario Museum, in a press release.

Photo by Jean-Bernard Caron © Royal Ontario Museum

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S. hirpex boasts a large third eye on its head, which was a surprise to researchers. A third eye has never been seen in a radiodont before.

Animation by Sabrina Cappelli © Royal Ontario Museum; markup by Inverse

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Even 500 million years ago, the visual capabilities of these animals were already highly developed like their modern kin, explained study co-author Jean-Bernard Caron in a press release.

S. hirpex also has a segmented head and brain, which is similar to the ones many insects have today.

Illustration by Sabrina Cappelli © Royal Ontario Museum

Art by Sabrina Cappelli © Royal Ontario Museum