Descriptive Anatomy and Three-Dimensional Reconstruction of the Skull of the Early Tetrapod Acanthostega gunnari Jarvik, 1952

Laura B Porro, Emily J Rayfield, Jennifer A. Clack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

20 Citations (Scopus)
239 Downloads (Pure)


The early tetrapod Acanthostega gunnari is an iconic fossil taxon exhibiting skeletal morphology reflecting the transition of vertebrates from water onto land. Computed tomography data of two Acanthostega skulls was segmented using visualization software to digitally separate bone from matrix and individual bones of the skull from each other. A revised description of cranial and lower jaw anatomy in this taxon based on CT data includes new details of sutural morphology, the previously undescribed quadrate and articular bones, and the mandibular symphysis. Sutural morphology is used to infer loading regime in the skull during feeding, and suggests Acanthostega used its anterior jaws to initially seize prey while smaller posterior teeth were used to restrain struggling prey during ingestion. Novel methods were used to repair and retrodeform the skull, resulting in a three-dimensional digital reconstruction that features a longer postorbital region and more strongly hooked anterior lower jaw than previous attempts while supporting the presence of a midline gap between the nasals and median rostrals.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0118882
Number of pages32
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 11 Mar 2015

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