The largest Silurian vertebrate and its palaeoecological implications

Chen Wei Choo, Min Zhuo, Wenjin Zhao, Liantao Jia, Zhu You'an

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    16 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    An apparent absence of Silurian fishes more than half-a-metre in length has been viewed as evidence that gnathostomes were restricted in size and diversity prior to the Devonian. Here we describe the largest pre-Devonian vertebrate (Megamastax amblyodus gen. et sp. nov.), a predatory marine osteichthyan from the Silurian Kuanti Formation (late Ludlow, ∼423 million years ago) of Yunnan, China, with an estimated length of about 1 meter. The unusual dentition of the new form suggests a durophagous diet which, combined with its large size, indicates a considerable degree of trophic specialisation among early osteichthyans. The lack of large Silurian vertebrates has recently been used as constraint in palaeoatmospheric modelling, with purported lower oxygen levels imposing a physiological size limit. Regardless of the exact causal relationship between oxygen availability and evolutionary success, this finding refutes the assumption that pre-Emsian vertebrates were restricted to small body sizes.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number5242
    Number of pages8
    JournalScientific Reports
    Volume4
    Issue numberArticle: 5242
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

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