Spines and tissues of ancient sharks

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The ‘spine-brush complex’1 of the extinct, mid-Palaeozoic primitive chondrichthyan shark Stethacanthus is one of the strangest vertebrate appendages known. Its structure has never been defined, but here we reveal that the ‘brush’ is actually an enlarged, specialized extension of the fin baseplate (basal cartilage2). It consists of an unusual type of globular calcified cartilage, a tissue that is often associated with pre-jawed primitive vertebrates3.

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Figure 1: Structure and histology of the ‘spine-brush complex’ in the primitive shark Stethacanthus.


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Coates, M., Sequeira, S., Sansom, I. et al. Spines and tissues of ancient sharks. Nature 396, 729–730 (1998) doi:10.1038/25467

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