Article | Published:

The oldest articulated osteichthyan reveals mosaic gnathostome characters

Nature volume 458, pages 469474 (26 March 2009) | Download Citation

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Abstract

The evolutionary history of osteichthyans (bony fishes plus tetrapods) extends back to the Ludlow epoch of the Silurian period. However, these Silurian forms have been documented exclusively by fragmentary fossils. Here we report the discovery of an exceptionally preserved primitive fish from the Ludlow of Yunnan, China, that represents the oldest near-complete gnathostome (jawed vertebrate). The postcranial skeleton of this fish includes a primitive pectoral girdle and median fin spine as in non-osteichthyan gnathostomes, but a derived macromeric squamation as in crown osteichthyans, and substantiates the unexpected mix of postcranial features in basal sarcopterygians, previously restored from the disarticulated remains of Psarolepis. As the oldest articulated sarcopterygian, the new taxon offers insights into the origin and early divergence of osteichthyans, and indicates that the minimum date for the actinopterygian–sarcopterygian split was no later than 419 million years ago.

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Acknowledgements

We thank M.-M. Chang, P. Janvier, J. Long, P. Ahlberg, X.-B. Yu and B. Choo for discussions, X.-B. Yu and B. Choo for improving the manuscript, J. Zhang and C.-H. Xiong for field work, X.-F. Lu and C.-H. Xiong for specimen preparation, W.-D. Zhang and W. Wang for making thin sections, B. Choo for life restoration, J.-L. Huang for illustrations, and J. Zhang for photography. This work was supported by the Major State Basic Research Projects (2006CB806400) of MST of China, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the National Natural Science Foundation of China, and the CAS/SAFEA International Partnership Program for Creative Research Teams. M.Z., J.L. and T.Q. thank G. Young and J. Long for the examination of Australian specimens with the support of an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant (DP0772138).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Key Laboratory of Evolutionary Systematics of Vertebrates, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP), Chinese Academy of Sciences, PO Box 643, Beijing 100044, China

    • Min Zhu
    • , Wenjin Zhao
    • , Liantao Jia
    • , Jing Lu
    • , Tuo Qiao
    •  & Qingming Qu
  2. Graduate School, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100039, China

    • Jing Lu
    • , Tuo Qiao
    •  & Qingming Qu

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Correspondence to Min Zhu.

Supplementary information

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    Supplementary Information 1

    This file contains Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Results, Supplementary Tables 1-7, Supplementary Figures 1-9 with Legends, Supplementary Notes, Supplementary Data and Supplementary References.

  2. 2.

    Supplementary Information 2

    This file contains photographs to show morphological details of Guiya.

  3. 3.

    Supplementary Information 3

    Life reconstruction was drawn by B. Choo (Victoria Museum) through communication with M.Z.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nature07855

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