HEADS AND TAILS: A CHORDATE PHYLOGENY

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Abstract

Abstract— A cladistic analysis of chordates is presented, based on some 320 nested characters. All the principal higher taxa are defined by synapomorphies, including extinct acanthodians and placoderms. The data base draws broadly from adult anatomy (including osteological data for Recent and fossil taxa), embryology, physiology, and biochemistry. A conventional sequence of chordate higher taxa is generated (hemichordates, urochordates, cephalochordates, craniates). Among the craniates, cyclostomes are considered paraphyletic. Gnathostomes are monophyletic, but two fossil “agnathan” groups (galeaspids, osteostracans) are regarded as stem gnathostomes. Chondrichthyans and osteichthyans are monophyletic. New arguments for osteichthyan affinity of acanthodians are presented. The phylogenetic position of placoderms is still problematic, but they can no longer be perceived as stem chondrichthyans or even as “elasmobranchiomorphs.” Recent dipnoans and tetrapods are sister groups, but new paleontological discoveries refute many of their supposed osteological synapomorphies, thereby reopening the possibility of a closer relationship between tetrapods and osteolepiform rhipidistians.

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