Fossilized fish skull shakes up the evolutionary history of jaws
415-million-year-old fossil adds to the growing evidence that sharks are not primitive
Ancient fish didn’t look like sharks. Because they lack the bony skeleton common in fish like cod and tuna, sharks have always been classified as more primitive and likened to the earliest common ancestor of jawed vertebrates.
CT scans of a 415-million-year-old skull of the early jawed fish Janusiscus schultzei reveal a mix of different fish traits. The top of the skull resembles that of a bony fish, but its inner structure resembles that of a shark. The work, published January 12 in Nature, suggests that from the outside the first jawed vertebrates actually looked like bony fish, and it backs up growing evidence that sharks are not the relics we thought them to be.
Researchers created a virtual model of the Janusiscus skull fossil based on CT scans. Using the model, they were able to investigate the inside of the ancient fish’s skull. The animation above depicts the original fossil and its corresponding 3-D model.
Credit: University of Oxford
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Editor’s note: This post was updated on January 16, 2015, to remove the word “outer” from the second sentence. Cod and tuna have a skeleton, not an outer skeleton.