Earliest known coelacanth skull extends the range of anatomically modern coelacanths to the Early Devonian

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Coelacanths are known for their evolutionary conservatism, and the body plan seen in Latimeria can be traced to late Middle Devonian Diplocercides, Holopterygius and presumably Euporosteus. However, the group's early history is unclear because of an incomplete fossil record. Until now, the only Early Devonian coelacanth is an isolated dentary (Eoactinistia) from Australia, whose position within the coelacanths is unknown. Here we report the earliest known coelacanth skull (Euporosteus yunnanensis sp. nov.) from the Early Devonian (late Pragian) of Yunnan, China. Resolved by maximum parsimony, maximum likelihood and Bayesian analyses as crownward of Diplocercides or as its sister taxon, the new form extends the chronological range of anatomically modern coelacanths by about 17 Myr. The finding lends support to the possibility that Eoactinistia is also an anatomically modern coelacanth, and provides a more refined reference point for studying the rapid early diversification and subsequent evolutionary conservatism of the coelacanths. © 2012 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.

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Nature Communications



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