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Palaeontology Department Seminar


Taking a bite out of jawed vertebrate origins


Dr. Matt Friedman,

Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford


Thursday 19th January
Neil Chalmers Seminar Room, DC2, NHM




Jawed vertebrates, collectively called gnathostomes, include over 99 percent of all living species of animals with backbones. How did gnathostomes come to be, and how can we account for their astonishing evolutionary success, particularly in comparison to their jawless cousins, the agnathans? Over the past two decades, a series of fossil discoveries and novel analytical approaches have revealed important clues bearing on the evolutionary assembly of modern jawed vertebrates, but outstanding questions remain. Particularly significant is the origin of the skull architecture common to all jawed vertebrates, which differs substantially from that of any agnathan. Old fossils are beginning to yield some of their long-hidden secrets, helping to bridge some of the major gaps in our understanding of early gnathostome evolution. More insights come from the study of living fishes, which has revealed new ways of quantifying the functional and ecological significance of contrasting morphologies.

Applying these methods to ancient gnathostomes provides a fresh perspective on their initial evolutionary radiation, with important implications for understanding the shift from a world dominated by jawless fishes to one dominated by jawed vertebrates.




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