name = Gnathostomata
fossil_range = fossilrange|462|0Late Ordovician - Recent

image_width= 200px
image_caption = Gnathostomata are jawed vertebrates
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
subphylum = Vertebrata
infraphylum = Gnathostomata
subdivision_ranks = Subgroups
subdivision =

Gnathostomata is the group of vertebrates with jaws.

The group is traditionally a superclass, including the familiar classes of fish, birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, and a sister group of the jawless vertebrates Agnatha. However, recent genetic studies are causing a reassessment of Gnathostomata as a grouping.

New fossil founds suggests thelodonts as the closest relatives of the Gnathostomata. [cite web | url= | title=New Silurian and Devonian fork-tailed 'thelodonts' are jawless vertebrates with stomachs and deep bodies | author=Mark V. H. Wilson & Michael W. Caldwell | publisher=nature | date=1993-02-04 | accessdate=2007-08-22]

It is believed that the jaws evolved from anterior gill support arches that had acquired a new role, being modified to pump water over the gills by opening and closing the mouth more effectively - the buccal pump mechanism. The mouth could then grow bigger and wider, making it possible to capture larger prey. This close and open mechanism would with time become stronger and tougher, being transformed into real jaws.

Placoderms used sharp bony plates as teeth instead, and newer research indicates the jaws in placoderms evolved independently of the rest of the remaining gnathostomates. [cite web | url=;jsessionid=baa9... | title=New Ideas About Old Sharks | author=Susan Turner and Randall F. Miller | publisher=American Scientist | DOI=10.1511/2005.3.244 | month=June | year=2005 | accessdate=2007-08-22]

Other distinguishing characteristics of living gnathostomates are the myelin sheathes of neurons, and an adaptive immune system.

The Gnathostomata first appeared in the Ordovician period and became common in the Devonian period.

Taxonomy and phylogeny

Subphylum Vertebrata ├─(unranked) Gnathostomatomorpha └─Infraphylum Gnathostomata ├─Class Placodermi - "extinct" (armored gnathostomes) └Microphylum Eugnathostomata (true jawed vertebrates) ├─Class Chondrichthyes (cartilaginous fish) └─(unranked) Teleostomi (Acanthodii & Osteichthyes) ├─Class Acanthodii - "extinct" ("spiny sharks") └Superclass Osteichthyes (bony fish) ├─Class Actinopterygii (ray-finned fish) └─Class Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) └Superclass Tetrapoda ├─Class Amphibia (amphibians) └(unranked) Amniota (amniotic egg) ├─Class Sauropsida (reptiles or sauropsids) │ └─Class Aves (birds) └─Class Synapsida └─Class Mammalia (mammals) Note: lines show evolutionary relationships.


External links

* [ Tree of Life discussion of Gnathostomata]
* [ The Gill Arches: Meckel's Cartilage]

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