A new look at the Cretaceous Lamprey Mesomyzon Chang, Zhang & Miao, 2006 from the Jehol Biota

Feixiang WU, Mee-Mann CHANG & Philippe JANVIER

en Geodiversitas 43 (23) - Pages 1293-1307

Published on 25 November 2021

Lampreys, one of the remaining two living jawless vertebrates, carry great weight in the study of vertebrate evolution. They have a long history dating back to the Devonian but left a scarce fossil record. So far, only five unequivocal fossil lampreys have been described, of which four are Paleozoic. Mesomyzon Chang, Zhang & Miao, 2006, the only known Mesozoic lamprey bridging the Paleozoic and extant relatives, was originally considered similar in morphology and life history to modern forms. Although being repeatedly referred to in early vertebrate phylogeny, the morphology of Mesomyzon is far from adequately known. Based on extensive investigations on numerous new and well-preserved specimens, we present herein more details of the morphology of this fossil lamprey, thereby releasing a package of new information of the cranial nerves, some associated structures of the oral disc, and the naso-hypophysial complex, which are barely preserved in previously known fossil lampreys. Mesomyzon shows peculiarities in having an extremely long anterior dorsal fin and a ribbon-like preanal skin fold, and hence being restored in a distinct profile from the formerly claimed look. Additionally, it shares with some Southern Hemispheric species the widely separated dorsal fins, posteriorly positioned cloaca and enlarged oral papillae. In the light of these new data, the feeding ecology of Mesomyzon was tentatively discussed and this fossil lamprey was considered a likely blood feeder, judging from the reinforcement of the attachment and sensory structures on the periphery of the oral disc.


fossil lampreys, Mesomyzon, anatomy, phylogeny, hematophagy

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