Arthopods Protected Their Young ones, Just as Humans Do Today, 430 million years ago

Busting the notion that modern-day parents are the first ones to keep tabs on their children to safeguard them from potential dangers, a new study has claimed that the practice began as long as 430 million years ago.

Published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study described a tiny, resourceful arthropod creature, Aquilonifer spinosus, which devised a unique way for baby tracking. Aquilonifer spinosus tethered egg pouches to its back with threads and followed its juveniles as they grew, in a similar manner as if they were tiny kites. The aim was to keep the young ones tethered to the adult’s body with strings so as to keep them safe.

The researchers said something similar had found mention in Khaled Hosseini’s 2003 novel "The Kite Runner", and that their study was also a tribute to the great visionary writer.

Focusing on arthropods, the study authors say these are a diverse group of animals that include crustaceans, millipedes, centipedes and insects. The one mentioned in the study belong to a very early branch in the group's evolutionary line and was less than half an inch long, blind and crawled along the sea floor. The study based its findings on its 10 offspring that were encased in tiny capsules and attached by threads to the back of its body.

Derek Briggs, curator of invertebrate paleontology at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History and the first author on the paper, said, “This is the only occurrence of this kind of behavior known among fossil or living arthropods. Juveniles are tethered to the limbs of some living freshwater crayfish during their development, but attachment to the back of an arthropod, in this case, is unique”.