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Lower jaws, lower tetrapods–a review based on the Devonian genus Acanthostega

  • Per Erik Ahlberg (a1) and Jennifer A. Clack (a2)


The lower jaw of the Devonian tetrapod Acanthostega is described for the first time. Redescriptions are provided for the lower jaws of the elpistostegid Panderichthys, the Devonian tetrapods Elginerpeton, Obruchevichthys, Metaxygnathus, Ventastega and Ichthyostega, and the Carboniferous tetrapods Crassigyrinus, Megalocephalus and Gephyrostegus. The character distri- butions thus revealed differ considerably from previous accounts, particularly in the wide distribution of certain primitive characters. Meckelian ossification in the middle part of the jaw is widespread among Devonian tetrapods, being demonstrably absent only in Acanthostega. Among Carboniferous tetrapods, a tooth-bearing parasymphysial plate is shown to be present in Crassigyrinus and Megalocephalus (having already been demonstrated by other authors in Whatcheeria and Greererpeton). A phylogenetic analysis of 26 early tetrapods including all the aforementioned genera, scored for 51 lower jaw characters, produces at least 2,500 equally parsimonious trees. However, the lack of resolution lies largely in a big top end polychotomy containing anthracosaurs, temnospondyls, seymouriamorphs, microsaurs and a nectridean-amniote clade. Below this polycho- tomy, which may correspond approximately to the tetrapod crown group, there is a well-resolved stem-group containing, in descending order, Megalocephalus, Greererpeton, Crassigyrinus, (jaws associated with) Tulerpeton, Whatcheeria, Acanthostega, Metaxygnathus, Ichthyostega, Ventastega and Metaxygnathus (unresolved), an Elginerpeton-Obruchevichthys clade, and Panderichthys. This conflicts with recently published phylogenies by Coates and Lebedev & Coates, which place Tulerpeton and all post-Devonian tetrapods in the amphibian or amniote branches of the tetrapod crown group.



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