The origin and early evolution of the cartilaginous fishes (Chondrichthyes) has been the subject of considerably more debate than of data. The two modern groups, Chimaeriformes and Elasmobranchii, differ so radically in morphology that in the past they have often been considered unrelated -- descended from some remote and unknown common ancestor. The current consensus promotes the Chimaeriformes and Elasmobranchii as sister taxa of the Class Chondrichthyes which are linked by an assemblage of Palaeozoic fossil taxa, but no taxonomic or phylogenetic scheme has been accepted for the Class. Of the two groups, the Chimaeriformes is the less understood. The few species of Chimaeriformes existing today are enigmatic, principally deeper-water fish that are not readily accessible for study. In the past the fossil record of both groups has been relatively scanty, primarily due to the poor potential for skeletal fossilization, and so has provided little useful input into fundamental discussions of vertebrate diversification. However, these situations are changing. Chimaerids are increasingly becoming the subject of renewed biological and limited fisheries interests. Regarding extinct chondrichthyans, the last 30 or so years have entailed discoveries of new fossils that illuminate our view of Palaeozoic life and are eliciting dramatic changes in our understanding of these early fishes, their relations, and the origins of jawed conditions.
Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 22, 2004
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