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Abstract

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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