Endocasts of the osseous labyrinth have the potential to yield information about both phylogenetic relationships and ecology. Although bony labyrinth morphology is well documented in many groups of fossil vertebrates, little is known for early Neopterygii, the major fish radiation containing living teleosts, gars and the bowfin. Here, we reconstruct endocasts of the bony labyrinth and associated structures for a sample of Mesozoic neopterygian fishes using high‐resolution computed tomography. Our sample includes taxa unambiguously assigned to either the teleost (Dorsetichthys, “Pholidophorus,” Elopoides) and holostean (“Aspidorynchus,” “Caturus,” Heterolepidotus) total‐groups, as well as examples of less certain phylogenetic position (an unnamed parasemionotid and Dapedium). Our models provide a test of anatomical interpretations for forms where bony labyrinths were reconstructed based on destructive tomography (“Caturus”) or inspection of the lateral wall of the cranial chamber (Dorsetichthys), and deliver the first detailed insights on inner ear morphology in the remaining taxa. With respect to relationships, traits apparent in the bony labyrinth and associated structures broadly support past phylogenetic hypotheses concerning taxa agreed to have reasonably secure systematic placements. Inner ear morphology supports placement of Dapedium with holosteans rather than teleosts, while preserved structure in the unnamed parasemionotid is generalized to the degree that it provides no evidence of close affinity with either of the crown neopterygian lineages. This study provides proof‐of‐concept for the systematic utility of the inner ear in neopterygians that, in combination with similar findings for earlier‐diverging actinopterygian lineages, points to the substantial potential of this anatomical system for addressing the longstanding questions in the relationships of fossil ray‐finned fishes to one another and living groups. J. Morphol. 279:426–440, 2018. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Journal of Morphology – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
Keywords: ; ; ; ;
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