Chief Scientist: ZHU Min
Osteichthyans, which fall into two major monophyletic groups, namely actinopterygians (bichirs, sturgeons, gars, bowfins and teleosts) and sarcopterygians (coelacanths, lungfishes and tetrapods), make up 98% of recognized living vertebrate species. The rise of osteichthyans from other primitive gnathostomes (jawed vertebrates) is a key transition in vertebrate evolution. Recent unexpected findings from China, especially Guiyu oneiros from the Ludlow (Silurian) o f Yu n n a n , h a v e provided further evidence that the search for modern vertebrate origins requires breaking out of the Devonian and into the Silurian. Effort s will be made to collect new materials of early gnathostomes includingearly placoderms and early osteichthyans from promising Silurian–Early Devonian fish localities in China. The project will include full-scale collection in previously known localities and extensive exploration of new outcrops. The field work will be followed by laboratory preparation and research to obtain critical information bearing on major transitions in early vertebrate evolution―the interrelationship of four major gnathostome groups (Placodermi, Acanthodii, Chondrichthyes and Osteichthyes), the origin and early diversification of osteichthyans, and the origin and early diversification of placoderms. Specifically, by exploiting the HXCT scanning facilities at IVPP, the project will help to establish the sequences of character acquisition leading to the origin of crown sarcopterygians. A solid phylogenetic scenario resulting from the planned project can also serve as a basis to explore related biogeographical problems, and test the interaction between major evolutionary events and environmental changes. The project will constitute a challenging and rewarding opportunity to bring about new breakthroughs in the study of early vertebrates, and related paleogeographical and paleoecological issues.