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Feeding structures in the ray-finned fish Eurynotus crenatus (Actinopterygii: Eurynotiformes): implications for trophic diversification among Carboniferous actinopterygians

  • Matt Friedman (a1), Stephanie E. Pierce (a2), Michael Coates (a3) and Sam Giles (a4)

The Permo-Carboniferous eurynotiforms show conspicuous modifications to postcranial and cranial morphology relative to primitive actinopterygian conditions, and represent an important early example of functional experimentation within ray-finned fishes. Although eurynotiforms are represented by abundant articulated fossil material, the internal anatomy of the group is not well known. Microcomputed tomography (μCT) of Eurynotus crenatus from the early Carboniferous (Viséan) Wardie Shales Member of the Gullane Formation of Wardie, Scotland provides detailed information on the jaws, palate and dentition. The lower jaw is deep and bears a well-developed convex dental plate on the prearticular/coronoids. The dentary bears a dorsally directed posterior process and lacks any obvious marginal dentition. The prearticular bears a low coronoid process. Apart from the first and second dermopalatines, and a likely accessory vomer, bones of the palate are tightly sutured or fused. The upper dental plate comprises a longitudinal, concave horizontal dental surface that occludes with the convex lower toothplate, and a more vertical region consisting of anastomosing ridges. The parasphenoid has a narrow anterior corpus and a broad posterior stalk that bears a pronounced midline notch. The smooth, irregularly punctated surfaces of the dental plates are formed by closely packed teeth with conjoined crowns, providing clues to the evolution of the more monolithic toothplates of Amphicentrum from the peg-like teeth reported in the earliest and most anatomically generalised eurynotiforms. The feeding apparatus shows many qualitative and quantitative features consistent with the processing of hard prey items. Eurynotus and its relatives show the first clear example of jaw and dental structures consistent with durophagy among actinopterygians. The origin of the group in the early Carboniferous is suggestive of diversification into newly available ecological roles in the aftermath of the end-Devonian extinction.

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