The first fish on Earth originated in marine waters near the coast

The first fish on Earth originated in marine waters near the coast

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The first vertebrates on Earth were fish, and scientists believe that first appeared about 480 million years ago. But the fossil records are patchy and only small fragments have been identified.

Some 60 million years later, 420 million years ago, the fossil record shows something completely different: a large variety of fish species en masse.

But where were the fish really? Where did they originate? A team of scientists, led by Lauren Sallan from the University of Pennsylvania in the US, has tried to answer these questions in a study published in the journal Science.

Until now the scientific community presumed that the first fish developed in coral reefs, given the great biodiversity of fish that currently exists in these ecosystems, but the search for decades in these places has not yielded results.

The group of scientists analyzed the Vertebrate fossils from the Middle Paleozoic (between 480 and 360 million years ago), as well as environmental markers that indicate their ancient habitats. Using this information, the researchers created a database of 2,728 early records for jawed and jawless fish. "It's a really big new data set," says Sallan.

The results indicate that all major groups of early vertebrates, including jaw and jawless fishes, originated and diversified in intertidal and subtidal environments close to shore, over a period of 100 million years.

“Our work shows that from the first jawless armored fish to sharks or even our own ancestors started near the beach, away from the reefs and further inland. As the old groups expanded, the newer ones also appeared on the coast, ”says Sallan, lead author of the work and a paleobiologist at the American university.

These findings help fill the gap that existed in understanding the early diversification of vertebrates, as the ancient habitats in which they lived had so far been little explored.

Understand the evolution of fish

The team was able to rebuild the incomplete information from the fossil record using mathematical models, which allowed making predictions about the type of habitat in which the first ancestors of various groups of vertebrates emerged.

"For vertebrates, we found that they originate in this shallow and unexpected area of ​​the oceans, and they remain in this limited area for a long time after they emerge," emphasizes the scientist.

As these near-shore populations diversified, adaptations in body patterns allowed them to spread to other environments. According to the authors, the strongest creatures remained in habitats close to shore or freshwater, while those with more graceful bodies colonized the deeper waters to avoid increased competition, as shallow and confined habitats nearby to the coast they were filled with life.

These new explanations in the fossil record also allow us to understand the fact that, over time, many groups of fish moved from the ocean to fresh water, while others evolved to become the first tetrapods, terrestrial vertebrates.

"They often went to the fresh water before going to the reefs, which is almost an independent line of evidence that they would have had to have been close to shore before doing so," says Sallan.

At present, no one has conducted a similar comprehensive study on living vertebrate species. "One of the things we want to know is whether these shallow waters are still the biological pump that feeds the reef," Sallan emphasizes.

If that were the case there might be some small consolation in the face of massive reef deaths around the world. These shallow waters may continue to be the cradle of fish diversification, scientists say, allowing biodiversity to persist despite the scarcity of reef habitat.

Via Sync

After studying History at the University and after many previous tests, Red Historia was born, a project that emerged as a means of dissemination where you can find the most important news of archeology, history and humanities, as well as articles of interest, curiosities and much more. In short, a meeting point for everyone where they can share information and continue learning.

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