Age of fishes

The Devonian Period is broken into the Early, Middle and Late Devonian. By the start of the Early Devonian 419 mya, jawed fishes had divided into four distinct clades: the placoderms and spiny sharks, both of which are now extinct, and the cartilaginous and bony fishes, both of which are still extant. The modern bony fishes, class Osteichthyes, appeared in the late Silurian or early Devonian, about 416 million years ago. Both the cartilaginous and bony fishes may have arisen from either the placoderms or the spiny sharks. A subclass of bony fishes, the ray-finned fishes (Actinopterygii), have become the dominant group in the post-Paleozoic and modern world, with some 30,000 living species. Sea levels in the Devonian were generally high. Marine faunas were dominated by bryozoa, diverse and abundant brachiopods, the enigmatic hederelloids, microconchids and corals. Lily-like crinoids were abundant, and trilobites were still fairly common. Among vertebrates, jawless armoured fish (ostracoderms) declined in diversity, while the jawed fish (gnathostomes) simultaneously increased in both the sea and fresh water. Armoured placoderms were numerous during the lower stages of the Devonian Period and became extinct in the Late Devonian, perhaps because of competition for food against the other fish species. Early cartilaginous (Chondrichthyes) and bony fishes (Osteichthyes) also become diverse and played a large role within the Devonian seas. The first abundant genus of shark, Cladoselache, appeared in the oceans during the Devonian Period. The great diversity of fish around at the time, have led to the Devonian being given the name "The Age of Fish" in popular culture. every known aquatic environment. The first ray-finned and lobe-finned bony fish appeared in the Devonian, while the placoderms began dominating almost every known aquatic environment. However, another subclass of Osteichthyes, the Sarcopterygii, including lobe-finned fishes including coelacanths and lungfish) and tetrapods, was the most diverse group of bony fishes in the Devonian. Sarcopterygians are basally characterized by internal nostrils, lobe fins containing a robust internal skeleton, and cosmoid scales. During the Middle Devonian 393383 Ma, the armoured jawless ostracoderm fishes were declining in diversity; the jawed fish were thriving and increasing in diversity in both the oceans and freshwater. The shallow, warm, oxygen-depleted waters of Devonian inland lakes, surrounded by primitive plants, rovided the environment necessary for certain early fish to develop essential characteristics such as well developed lungs, and the ability to crawl out of the water and onto the land for short periods of time. Cartilaginous fishes, class Chondrichthyes, consisting of sharks, rays and chimaeras, appeared by about 395 million years ago, in the middle Devonian During the Late Devonian the first forests were taking shape on land. The first tetrapods appear in the fossil record over a period, the beginning and end of which are marked with extinction events. This lasted until the end of the Devonian 359 mya. The ancestors of all tetrapods began adapting to walking on land, their strong pectoral and pelvic fins gradually evolved into legs (see Tiktaalik).[61] In the oceans, primitive sharks became more numerous than in the Silurian and the late Ordovician. The first ammonite mollusks appeared. Trilobites, the mollusk-like brachiopods and the great coral reefs, were still common. The Late Devonian extinction severely affected marine life, killing off all placoderms, and all trilobites, save for a few species of the order Proetida. A major extinction occurred at the beginning of the last phase of the Devonian period, the Famennian faunal stage, (the Frasnian-Famennian boundary), about 372.2 1.6 Ma, when all the fossil agnathan fishes, save for the psammosteid heterostracans, suddenly disappeared. A second strong pulse closed the Devonian period. The Late Devonian extinction was one of five major extinction events in the history of the Earth's biota, more drastic than the familiar extinction event that closed the Cretaceous. The Devonian extinction crisis primarily affected the marine community, and selectively affected shallow warm-water organisms rather than cool-water organisms. The most important group to be affected by this extinction event were the reef-builders of the great Devonian reef-systems. Later discoveries revealed earlier transitional forms between Acanthostega and completely fish-like animals.[62] Unfortunately there is then a gap (Romer's gap) of about 30 Ma between the fossils of ancestral tetrapods and Mid Carboniferous fossils of vertebrates that look well-adapted for life on land. Some of these look like early relatives of modern amphibians, most of which need to keep their skins moist and to lay their eggs in water, while others are accepted as early relatives of the amniotes, whose water-proof skin enable them to live and breed far from water.