The first virtual cranial endocast of a lungfish (Sarcopterygii: Dipnoi)

Alice Clement, Per Ahlberg

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    15 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Lungfish, or dipnoans, have a history spanning over 400 million years and are the closest living sister taxon to the tetrapods. Most Devonian lungfish had heavily ossified endoskeletons, whereas most Mesozoic and Cenozoic lungfish had largely cartilaginous endoskeletons and are usually known only from isolated tooth plates or disarticulated bone fragments. There is thus a substantial temporal and evolutionary gap in our understanding of lungfish endoskeletal morphology, between the diverse and highly variable Devonian forms on the one hand and the three extant genera on the other. Here we present a virtual cranial endocast of Rhinodipterus kimberleyensis, from the Late Devonian Gogo Formation of Australia, one of the most derived fossil dipnoans with a well-ossified braincase. This endocast, generated from a Computed Microtomography (mCT) scan of the skull, is the first virtual endocast of any lungfish published, and only the third fossil dipnoan endocast to be illustrated in its entirety. Key features include long olfactory canals, a telencephalic cavity with a moderate degree of ventral expansion, large suparaotic cavities, and moderately enlarged utricular recesses. It has numerous similarities to the endocasts of Chirodipterus wildungensis and Griphognathus whitei, and to a lesser degree to 'Chirodipterus' australis and Dipnorhynchus sussmilchi. Among extant lungfish, it consistently resembles Neoceratodus more closely than Lepidosiren and Protopterus. Several trends in the evolution of the brains and labyrinth regions in dipnoans, such as the expansions of the utricular recess and telencephalic regions over time, are identified and discussed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere113898
    Pages (from-to)Art: e113898
    Number of pages20
    JournalPLoS One
    Volume9
    Issue number11
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

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