Denticle-embedded ampullary organs in a Cretaceous shark provide unique insight into the evolution of elasmobranch electroreceptors
Here, we report a novel type of dermal denticle (or placoid scale), unknown among both living and fossil chondrichthyan fishes, in a Cretaceous lamniform shark. By their morphology and location, these dermal denticles, grouped into clusters in the cephalic region, appear to have been directly associated with the electrosensory ampullary system. These denticles have a relatively enlarged (∼350 μm in diameter), ornamented crown with a small (∼100 μm) asterisk- or cross-shaped central perforation connected to a multi-alveolate internal cavity. The formation of such a complex structure can be explained by the annular coalescence and fusion, around an ampullary vesicle, of several developmental units still at papillary stage (i.e. before mineralization), leading to a single denticle embedding an alveolar ampulla devoid of canal. This differs from larger typical ampullae of Lorenzini with a well-developed canal opening in a pore of the skin and may represent another adaptive response to low skin resistance. Since it has been recently demonstrated that ampullary organs arise from lateral line placodes in chondrichthyans, this highly specialized type of dermal denticle (most likely non-deciduous) may be derived from the modified placoid scales covering the superficial neuromasts (pit organs) of the mechanosensory lateral line system of many modern sharks.
KeywordsChondrichthyes Lamniformes Cretaceous Dermal denticle Electrosensory ampullary system
We are extremely grateful to G. Barbe for donating the specimen to the UM collections. We thank A.-M. Damiano for the documentation, P. Janvier for the discussion, V. Perrichot for the technical assistance and A. Piuz for the SEM imaging. We also thank the three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. G.G. was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (200021-140827).
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