New polybranchiaspiform fishes (Agnatha: Galeaspida) from the Middle Palaeozoic of China and their ecomorphological implications

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Abstract

The 438–370-million-year-old galeaspids, diversified armoured jawless vertebrates (‘ostracoderms’) from China and northern Vietnam, were assumed to have a benthic feeding habit in a coastal, marine environment. Here, we describe two new genera of galeaspid fishes, Platylomaspis gen. nov. and Nanningaspis gen. nov. from the Middle Palaeozoic of China. The two new forms are characterized by a rostral process and strikingly broad ventral rim, and clustered with Gumuaspis to form a new family, Gumuaspidae, which represents the most primitive clade of Polybranchiaspiformes. They extend the earliest occurrence of Polybranchiaspiformes backward about 19 million years, and expand its geographical distribution from southern China and northern Vietnam to the Tarim Basin, northwestern China. The new taxa exhibit many morphological convergences with modern rays, and might specify a new kind of lifestyle of galeaspids, the half burrowing habit. Probably benefiting from the new lifestyle, the Gumuaspidae has become the longest lasting galeaspid family. The new findings demonstrated that the demersal galeaspids had developed three different kinds of lifestyles: semi-infaunal benthic (half buried), epibenthic, and suprabenthic (nektonic) habits to accommodate to differentiated ecological niches, and reached the peak of their diversity by the Pragian of the Early Devonian.

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Gai, Z., Lu, L., Zhao, W., & Zhu, M. (2018). New polybranchiaspiform fishes (Agnatha: Galeaspida) from the Middle Palaeozoic of China and their ecomorphological implications. PLoS ONE, 13(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0202217

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