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Sci Rep. 2014 Jun 12;4:5242. doi: 10.1038/srep05242.

The largest Silurian vertebrate and its palaeoecological implications.

Author information

1
1] Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of SciencesPO Box 643, Beijing 100044, China [2] School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide 5001, South Australia.
2
Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of SciencesPO Box 643, Beijing 100044, China.

Abstract

An apparent absence of Silurian fishes more than half-a-metre in length has been viewed as evidence that gnathostomes were restricted in size and diversity prior to the Devonian. Here we describe the largest pre-Devonian vertebrate (Megamastax amblyodus gen. et sp. nov.), a predatory marine osteichthyan from the Silurian Kuanti Formation (late Ludlow, ~423 million years ago) of Yunnan, China, with an estimated length of about 1 meter. The unusual dentition of the new form suggests a durophagous diet which, combined with its large size, indicates a considerable degree of trophic specialisation among early osteichthyans. The lack of large Silurian vertebrates has recently been used as constraint in palaeoatmospheric modelling, with purported lower oxygen levels imposing a physiological size limit. Regardless of the exact causal relationship between oxygen availability and evolutionary success, this finding refutes the assumption that pre-Emsian vertebrates were restricted to small body sizes.

PMID:
24921626
PMCID:
PMC4054400
DOI:
10.1038/srep05242
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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