Pelvic claspers confirm chondrichthyan-like internal fertilization in arthrodires

Per Ahlberg, Kate Trinajstic, Zerina Johanson, John Long
Nature 2009 August 13, 460 (7257): 888-9
Recent finds demonstrate that internal fertilization and viviparity (live birth) were more widespread in the Placodermi, an extinct group of armoured fishes, than was previously realized. Placoderms represent the sister group of the crown group jawed vertebrates (Gnathostomata), making their mode(s) of reproduction potentially informative about primitive gnathostome conditions. An ossified pelvic fin basipterygium discovered in the arthrodire Incisoscutum ritchiei was hypothesized to be identical in males and females, with males presumed to have an additional cartilaginous element or series forming a clasper. Here we report the discovery of a completely ossified pelvic clasper in Incisoscutum ritchiei (WAM 03.3.28) which shows that this interpretation was incorrect: the basipterygium described previously is in fact unique to females. The male clasper is a slender rod attached to a square basal plate that articulates directly with the pelvis. It carries a small cap of dermal bone covered in denticles and small hooks that may be homologous with the much larger dermal component of the ptyctodont clasper.

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