Development of understanding of the Mesozoic and Cenozoic chondrichthyan fossil record
Charlie Underwood, David Ward, Guillaume Guinot, 2016. "Development of understanding of the Mesozoic and Cenozoic chondrichthyan fossil record", Arthur Smith Woodward: His Life and Influence on Modern Vertebrate Palaeontology, Z. Johanson, P. M. Barrett, M. Richter, M. Smith
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Fossils of post-Palaeozoic sharks and rays are common and well known, and have been extensively studied. Early studies, especially the monographic works of Agassiz and Smith Woodward, described species based on macroscopic remains of isolated teeth, fin spines and rostral ‘teeth’ as well as rare specimens of articulated skeletons and skulls. This material was obtained from a range of sources but especially from commercial collectors in Britain and mainland Europe. Additional research over subsequent decades also concentrated on large specimens, giving a very biased perception of the chondrichthyan record. The use of large-scale bulk sampling in the latter part of the twentieth century revealed a previously unknown wealth of small fossils, especially teeth, and vastly improved knowledge of ancient sharks and rays. Widening use of these techniques to obtain small specimens has led to a dramatic increase in the fossil taxa known. In addition, reassessment of previously known taxa has allowed generic diversity of some clades to be appreciated. Detailed work on skeletal anatomy, in part aided by new non-destructive methods, continues to improve knowledge of shark and ray diversity, phylogeny and radiation.
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Arthur Smith Woodward was the Natural History Museum’s longest-serving Keeper of Geology and the world’s leading expert on fossil fish. He was also an unwitting victim of the Piltdown fraud, which overshadowed his important scientific contributions. The aim of this book is to honour Smith Woodward’s contributions to vertebrate palaeontology, discuss their relevance today and provide insights into the factors that made him such an eminent scientist. The last few years have seen a resurgence in fossil vertebrate (particularly fish) palaeontology, including new techniques for the ‘virtual’ study of fossils (synchrotron and micro CT-scanning) and new research foci, such as ‘Evo-Devo’ – combining fossils with the development of living animals. This new research is built on a strong foundation, like that provided by Smith Woodward’s work. This collection of papers, authored by some of the leading experts in their fields, covers the many facets of Smith Woodward’s life, legacy and career. It will be a benchmark for studies on one of the leading vertebrate palaeontologists of his generation.