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Lethaia 28: 187-188

Author(s): Purnell MA (1995A) Large eyes and vision in conodonts


One of the key developments that marked the first appearance of verte- brates (here considered synonymouswith craniates; see, e.g., Aldridge et al. 1993 for discussion) was the evolution of specialized, paired sense organs (e.g., Janvier 1981; Jollie 1982; Gans & Northcutt 1983; Northcutt & Gans 1983;Northcutt 1985;Griffith 1994).Thepresenceofsuchsenseorganshas been employed as one of the synapomorphies that d e h e the vertebrate clade (e.g., Gans & Northcutt 1983; Maisey 1986; Fritsch & Northcutt 1993), and their appearance has been linked with an ecological shift to an active, predatory mode of life (Jollie 1982; Northcutt & Gans 1983; cf. Mallatt 1985). Eyes are an integral part of this sensory system, and the recent interpretation of the anterior lobes of conodonts as sclerotic cart- lages surrounding largeeyes (Aldridge & Theron 1993; Aldridge etal. 1993) has important implications, not only for the understanding of conodont palaeobiologybut also for scenarios of early vertebrate evolution and pre- gnathostome relationships

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