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      The braincase and jaws of a Devonian ‘acanthodian’ and modern gnathostome origins

      Nature
      Springer Science and Business Media LLC

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          Abstract

          Modern gnathostomes (jawed vertebrates) emerged in the early Palaeozoic era, but this event remains unclear owing to a scant early fossil record. The exclusively Palaeozoic 'acanthodians' are possibly the earliest gnathostome group and exhibit a mosaic of shark- and bony fish-like characters that has long given them prominence in discussions of early gnathostome evolution. Their relationships with modern gnathostomes have remained mysterious, partly because their un-mineralized endoskeletons rarely fossilized. Here I present the first-known braincase of an Early Devonian (approximately 418-412 Myr bp) acanthodian, Ptomacanthus anglicus, and re-evaluate the interrelationships of basal gnathostomes. Acanthodian braincases have previously been represented by a single genus, Acanthodes, which occurs more than 100 million years later in the fossil record. The braincase of Ptomacanthus differs radically from the osteichthyan-like braincase of Acanthodes in exhibiting several plesiomorphic features shared with placoderms and some early chondrichthyans. Most striking is its extremely short sphenoid region and its jaw suspension, which displays features intermediate between some Palaeozoic chondrichthyans and osteichthyans. Phylogenetic analysis resolves Ptomacanthus as either the most basal chondrichthyan or as the sister group of all living gnathostomes. These new data alter earlier conceptions of basal gnathostome phylogeny and thus help to provide a more detailed picture of the acquisition of early gnathostome characters.

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          The oldest articulated chondrichthyan from the Early Devonian period.

          Chondrichthyans (including living sharks, skates, rays and chimaeras) have a fossil record of scales and dermal denticles perhaps dating back to the Late Ordovician period, about 455 million years ago. Their fossil tooth record extends to the earliest Devonian period, almost 418 million years ago, whereas the oldest known articulated shark remains date from the Early Devonian period, about 394 million years ago. Here we report the discovery of an articulated shark that is almost 409 million years old from the Early Devonian (early Emsian) period of New Brunswick, Canada. The specimen, identified as Doliodus problematicus (Woodward), sheds light on the earliest chondrichthyans and their interrelationships with basal jawed vertebrates. This species has been truly problematic. Previously known only from isolated teeth, it has been identified as an acanthodian and a chondrichthyan. This specimen is the oldest shark showing the tooth families in situ, and preserves one of the oldest chondrichthyan braincases. More notably, it shows the presence of paired pectoral fin-spines, previously unknown in cartilaginous fishes.
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            New information on the structure and relationships of Buchanosteus (Placodermi: Euarthrodira) from the Early Devonian of New South Wales

            G Young (1979)
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              BRAINCASE OF THE UPPER DEVONIAN SHARK CLADODOIDES WILDUNGENSIS (CHONDRICHTHYES, ELASMOBRANCHII), WITH OBSERVATIONS ON THE BRAINCASE IN EARLY CHONDRICHTHYANS

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature
                Nature
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                0028-0836
                1476-4687
                January 2009
                January 2009
                : 457
                : 7227
                : 305-308
                Article
                10.1038/nature07436
                19148098
                c64efe25-cae8-4cf3-ad8f-f3f3ad2f783c
                © 2009

                http://www.springer.com/tdm

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