Nature 458, 469-474 (26 March 2009) | doi:10.1038/nature07855; Received 5 October 2008; Accepted 23 January 2009

The oldest articulated osteichthyan reveals mosaic gnathostome characters

Min Zhu1, Wenjin Zhao1, Liantao Jia1, Jing Lu1,2, Tuo Qiao1,2 & Qingming Qu1,2

  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
  2. Graduate School, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100039, China

Correspondence to: Min Zhu1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to M.Z. (Email:


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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