Sunday, May 07, 2006

Meemannia And the Fish-Tetrapod Transition

A primitive fish provides key characters bearing on deep osteichthyan phylogeny. 2006. M. Zhu, et al. Nature 441: 77-81.

Abstract: Osteichthyans, or bony vertebrates, include actinopterygians (teleosts and their relatives) and sarcopterygians (coelacanths, lungfishes and tetrapods). Despite features found in basal actinopterygians (for example, Dialipina and Ligulalepis) and basal sarcopterygians (for example, Psarolepis and Achoania), the morphological gap between the two lineages remains wide and how sarcopterygians developed a dermal surface covering known as cosmine (composed of a pore–canal network and a single layer of odontodes and enamel) is still poorly known. Here we describe a primitive fossil fish, Meemannia eos gen. et sp. nov., that possesses an actinopterygian-like skull roof and a cosmine-like dermal surface combining a pore–canal network (found in various fossil sarcopterygians) with superimposed layers of odontodes and enamel (previously known in actinopterygians and some acanthodians).

This 405-million-year-old fish from the Lower Devonian of Yunnan (China) demonstrates that cosmine in many fossil sarcopterygians arose step by step through the acquisition of a pore–canal network followed by the subsequently developed ability to resorb previous generations of odontodes and enamel. Meemannia provides key characters for studying deep osteichthyan phylogeny and indicates a possible morphotype for the common ancestor of actinopterygians and sarcopterygians.