Fossil Musculature of the Most Primitive Jawed Vertebrates

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Abstract

The transition from jawless to jawed vertebrates (gnathostomes) resulted in the reconfiguration of the muscles and skeleton of the head, including the creation of a separate shoulder girdle with distinct neck muscles. We describe here the only known examples of preserved musculature from placoderms (extinct armored fishes), the phylogenetically most basal jawed vertebrates. Placoderms possess a regionalized muscular anatomy that differs radically from the musculature of extant sharks, which is often viewed as primitive for gnathostomes. The placoderm data suggest that neck musculature evolved together with a dermal joint between skull and shoulder girdle, not as part of a broadly flexible neck as in sharks, and that transverse abdominal muscles are an innovation of gnathostomes rather than of tetrapods.

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