19 July 2024
Ancient jawless fish mouths: Surprising feeding revelation

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Ancient Jawless Fish Mouth: Unveiling the Feeding Habits of Early Vertebrates

The discovery of the 3D mouth structure of an ancient jawless fish has provided significant insights into the feeding behaviors of early vertebrates. This groundbreaking research, led by experts at the University of Birmingham, sheds light on how these ancient creatures, some of the earliest vertebrates with backbones, likely utilized bony projections around their mouths to modify their mouth shape while collecting food.

Unraveling Feeding Strategies of Early Vertebrates

During the early Devonian epoch, approximately 400 million years ago, the jawless fish, specifically Rhinopteraspis dunensis, inhabited the ancient seas. With the absence of jaws, scientists have long debated the feeding strategies of these early vertebrates. The new study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, employed advanced CT scanning techniques to visualize the intricate mouth parts of these ancient fish in detail.

Lead author Dr. Richard Dearden explained that the CT scanning methods allowed the researchers to reconstruct the small bones of the fish’s mouth, providing insights into how it fed as an integrated system rather than isolated bones. The images revealed finger-like bones that projected from the lower lip of the fish’s mouth, likely serving to control the mouth’s size and shape as it captured food particles from the surrounding water.

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Filter-Feeders, Not Scavengers or Hunters

Contrary to previous theories suggesting that early vertebrates were primarily scavengers or hunters, the 3D reconstruction unveiled by the research team paints a different picture. The bony plates surrounding the fish’s mouth would have had limited movement, making it unlikely for the animals to be active hunters capable of biting. Additionally, the elongated snout of the fish would have hindered it from scooping and filtering sediment directly from the seabed.

However, the structure of the bony plates indicates that the ancient jawless fish may have been filter-feeders, akin to modern animals such as flamingos or oysters. These plates allowed the fish to control the opening of its mouth and potentially strain food from the water. This discovery challenges existing hypotheses on vertebrate evolution, suggesting that early vertebrates exhibited a diverse range of feeding behaviors long before the emergence of jawed animals.

Implications for Understanding Vertebrate Evolution

The findings from this study offer a fresh perspective on the evolution of vertebrates, highlighting the complexity and diversity of feeding strategies among early vertebrate relatives. While conventional theories suggest a linear progression towards increasingly predatory behavior in vertebrate evolution, the research on the ancient jawless fish mouth indicates a more varied landscape of feeding behaviors.

By delving into the feeding habits of these ancient creatures, researchers are gaining valuable insights into the early stages of vertebrate evolution and the adaptive strategies employed by early vertebrates in their quest for sustenance. The study underscores the importance of exploring diverse feeding behaviors in understanding the evolutionary history of vertebrates and the intricate adaptations that have shaped life on Earth.

Links to additional Resources:

1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S096098222100884X 2. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-27075-y 3. https://phys.org/news/2022-03-ancient-jawless-fish-filter-feeders.html

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Jawless fish, Vertebrate evolution, CT scanning

Agnatha (; from Ancient Greek ἀ- (a-) 'without', and γνάθος (gnáthos) 'jaws') is an infraphylum of jawless fish in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, consisting of both living (cyclostomes) and extinct (conodonts, anaspids, and ostracoderms) species. Among recent animals, cyclostomes are sister to all vertebrates with jaws, known as gnathostomes.Molecular...
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Vertebrates () are deuterostomal animals with bony or cartilaginous axial endoskeleton — known as the vertebral column, spine or backbone — around and along the spinal cord, including all fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. The vertebrates consist of all the taxa within the subphylum Vertebrata () (chordates with backbones)...
Read more: Vertebrate

CT scan
A computed tomography scan (CT scan; formerly called computed axial tomography scan or CAT scan) is a medical imaging technique used to obtain detailed internal images of the body. The personnel that perform CT scans are called radiographers or radiology technologists.CT scanners use a rotating X-ray tube and a row...
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