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A microanatomical and histological study of the scales of the Devonian sarcopterygian Miguashaia bureaui and the evolution of the squamation in coelacanths

Abstract : Coelacanths have traditionally been described as morphologically conservative throughout their long evolutionary history, which spans more than 400 million years. After an initial burst during the Devonian, a morphological stasis was long thought to have prevailed since the Carboniferous, as shown by the extant Latimeria. New fossil discoveries have challenged this view, with punctual and sometimes unusual departures from the general coelacanth Bauplan. The dermal skeleton is considered to represent one, if not the main, example of morphological stasis in coelacanth evolution and as a consequence, has remained poorly surveyed. The lack of palaeohistological data on the dermoskeleton has resulted in a poor understanding of the early establishment and evolution of the coelacanth squamation. Here we describe the scales of Miguashaia bureaui from the Upper Devonian of Miguasha, Québec (Canada), revealing histological data for a Palaeozoic coelacanth in great detail and adding to our knowledge on the dermal skeleton of sarcopterygians. Miguashaia displays rounded scales ornamented by tubercules and narrow ridges made of dentine and capped with enamel. At least two generations of superimposed odontodes occur, which is reminiscent of the primitive condition of stem osteichthyans like Andreolepis or Lophosteus, and onychodonts like Selenodus. The middle vascular layer is well developed and shows traces of osteonal remodelling. The basal plate consists of a fully mineralised lamellar bone with a repetitive rotation pattern every five layers indicating a twisted plywood-like arrangement of the collagen plies. Comparisons with the extant Latimeria and other extinct taxa show that these features are consistently conserved across coelacanth evolution with only minute changes in certain taxa. The morphological and histological features displayed in the scales of Miguashaia enable us to draw a comprehensive picture of the onset of the coelacanth squamation and to propose and discuss evolutionary scenarios for the coelacanth dermoskeleton.
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Contributor : Jorge Mondéjar Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Wednesday, March 24, 2021 - 1:23:58 PM
Last modification on : Friday, August 5, 2022 - 9:25:51 AM


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Jorge Mondéjar-Fernández, François Meunier, Richard Cloutier, Gaël Clément, Michel Laurin. A microanatomical and histological study of the scales of the Devonian sarcopterygian Miguashaia bureaui and the evolution of the squamation in coelacanths. Journal of Anatomy, 2021, 239, pp.451-478. ⟨10.1111/joa.13428⟩. ⟨mnhn-03179703⟩



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