Letter

Nature 441, 972-974 (22 June 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04730; Received 13 January 2006; Accepted 13 March 2006

A lamprey from the Cretaceous Jehol biota of China

Mee-mann Chang1, Jiangyong Zhang1 and Desui Miao2

  1. Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, PO Box 643, Beijing 100044, China
  2. Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas 66045, USA

Correspondence to: Mee-mann Chang1Jiangyong Zhang1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to M.-M.C. (Email: zhangmiman@ivpp.ac.cn or Email: cmeemann@yahoo.com).

Widespread nowadays in freshwater and coastal seas of the cold and temporal zones, lampreys are a jawless vertebrate group that has been in existence for more than 300 million years but left a meagre fossil record. Only two fossil lamprey species, namely Mayomyzon pieckoensis1, 2 and Hardistiella montanensis3, 4, 5, have been recognized with certainty from North American Carboniferous marine deposits6. Here we report a freshwater lamprey from the Early Cretaceous epoch (about 125 million years ago) of Inner Mongolia, China. The new taxon, Mesomyzon mengae, has a long snout, a well-developed sucking oral disk, a relatively long branchial apparatus showing branchial basket, seven gill pouches, gill arches and impressions of gill filaments, about 80 myomeres and several other characters that are previously unknown or ambiguous. Our finding not only indicates Mesomyzon's closer relationship to extant lampreys but also reveals the group's invasion into a freshwater environment no later than the Early Cretaceous. The new material furthers our understanding of ancient lampreys, bridges the gap between the Carboniferous ones and their recent relatives, and adds to our knowledge of the evolutionary history of lampreys.

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