Morphology, Taxonomy and Interrelationships of Tristichopterid Fishes (Sarcopterygii, Tetrapodomorpha)
Abstract: Tristichopterids (Sarcopterygii, Tetrapodomorpha) form a monophyletic group of exclusively Devonian fishes. This thesis consists of descriptions of new material of tristichopterids and closely related taxa, as well as new interpretations and descriptions of previously figured material. Redescribed specimens were originally figured as far back as 1861, and publications as old as this are almost always of limited use as anatomical and systematical references, in addition to being difficult to acquire. The possibility of using new techniques and new theoretical frameworks also provides good justification for taking a second look at such specimens. In the case of this thesis, this includes the use of computed tomography scanning methods, and the cladistic approach to describing the interrelationships of taxa.The thesis includes a complete taxonomy of valid tristichopterid taxa, in addition to two new phylogenetic analyses incorporating the taxa that were described or redescribed. One of the analyses deals with the interrelationships of taxa along the entire tetrapod stem, and establishes the monophyly of the Tristichopteridae. The other analysis focuses on tristichopterid interrelationships.An account is given of evolutionary trends within Tristichopteridae, and instances of parallel evolution between tristichopterids and other tetrapodomorph groups are discussed.The biogeographical implications of tristichopterid occurences world-wide seem to corroborate the picture provided by other vertebrate groups, and give further support to one of two main hypotheses concerning the relative positions of Gondwana and Laurussia, the two major palaeocontinents during the Late Devonian. The supported hypothesis proposes a close proximity between southern Laurussia and northwestern Gondwana, as evidenced by the wide dispersal of derived tristichopterids by the Late Devonian. A Laurussian origin of tristichopterids is proposed.
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