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Neurosci Lett. 1984 Jul 27;48(2):145-8.

Evolution of myelin sheaths: both lamprey and hagfish lack myelin.


Modern views of agnathan phylogeny consider Petromyzoniformes and Myxiniformes to belong to distinct classes that diverged from a common ancestor at a remote period, perhaps in the lower Cambrian, greater than 600 million years ago. Both are more primitive than elasmobranchs, holocephalans and bony fishes. Myelin is well developed in elasmobranchs and other fishes but was reported to be lacking in the spinal cord of lampreys. In order to search further for possible early myelin in some part of the nervous system of one of the agnathan stems, or for further evidence that it first appeared in chondrichthians, we extended the sampling to many parts of the brain and cord of hagfish. Transmission electron microscopy was used as a nearly ideal criterion. We find no trace or forerunner of the spiral, multilaminate glial wrapping. Many axons are embedded within one or more glial cells, like unmyelinated fibers in other vertebrates, or lie contiguously in bundles without an obviously complete glial investment. True myelin must be presumed to have been invented within the vertebrates, in ancestors of the living cartilaginous fishes after the agnathans branched from the vertebrate stem.

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