Jawing About Ancient Fish

Reconstruction of Metaspriggina walcotti by Marianne Collins. © Conway Morris and Caron.

Reconstruction of Metaspriggina walcotti by Marianne Collins. © Conway Morris and Caron.

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download_blue.jpgA 505-million-year-old fish fossil reveals the first stages of the evolution of the jaw.

 

New fossils discovered in Kootenay Park in British Columbia have helped identify what could be an important ancestor to most vertebrate animals. The 505-million-year-old fossil is of a fish with preserved remains that include important structures near the mouth that are thought, in time, to evolve into jawbones. The appearance of the jaw in fish was an important innovation that allowed animals to consume a wider array of foods, and diversify into more ecological niches. Professor Simon Conway Morris, a paleobiologist from the University of Cambridge, was part of the team that identified the new fossil.

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This item appeared on Quirks & Quarks on June 14, 2014