Devonian fish provides unique insights into the early evolution of modern lobe-finned fishes
Crown or modern sarcopterygians contain three major groups: coelacanths, lungfishes and tetrapods. With the exception of the tetrapods, sarcopterygians have a long evolutionary history of diversity decline and are nowhere near as diverse today as they were at the beginning of their history. They differ substantially from stem or primitive sarcopterygians such as Guiyu and Psarolepis, and a lack of transitional fossil taxa limits our understanding of the origin of the modern group.
|Life Reconstrution of Qingmenodus yui [Credit: Brian Choo]|
In a study published June 3 in the journal of Science Advances, Drs. LU Jing and ZHU Min, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP), Chinese Academy of Sciences, and their collaborators described newly discovered skull material of Qingmenodus, an onychodont from South China about 409 million years ago, using high-resolution computed tomography to image internal structures of the braincase.
The new specimens of Qingmenodus, including a completely ossified anterior cranial portion (IVPP V16003.5) and a posterior cranial portion (IVPP V16003.6), were collected from the type site of Qingmenodus yui during 2009 to 2012 field trips. The anterior cranial portion is referred to as Qingmenodus yui based on the shared ornamentation and comparable size with the holotype of Qingmenodus yui (IVPP V16003.1). The new posterior cranial portion has not preserved the ventral part of the otic capsules, however, its preserved part matches well with the holotype, such as vermiculate impressions on the dermal surface, and the elongate otic shelf.
“In addition to its remarkable similarities with primitive sarcopterygians in the ethmosphenoid portion, Qingmenodus exhibits coelacanth-like neurocranial features in the otic region”, said lead author Dr. LU Jing of the IVPP, “It thus further bridges the morphological gap between primitive sarcopterygians (Guiyu, Psarolepis, and Achoania) and modern sarcopterygians, and provides unique insights into the sequence of neurocranial character acquisition involved in the origin and early diversification of the latter”.
|Comparison of the brain cavities of selected Devonian sarcopterygians in a temporally |
calibrated cladogram [Credit: LU Jing]
“Our phylogenetic analysis based on a revised data set unambiguously assigns onychodonts to crown sarcopterygians as stem coelacanths. Qingmenodus thus bridges the morphological gap between stem sarcopterygians and coelacanths, and helps to illuminate the early evolution and diversification of crown sarcopterygians”, said co-author Dr. Per Erik Ahlberg, Uppsala University in Sweden.
Source: Chinese Academy of Science [June 07, 2016]