Early Vertebrates and the Emergence of Jaws

  • Zerina JohansonEmail author
  • Catherine A. Boisvert
  • Kate Trinajstic
Part of the Fascinating Life Sciences book series (FLS)


The evolution of jaws marked an important transition in the evolution of vertebrates, allowing them to become successful, active predators. Some developmental events associated with this transition can be deduced from the fossil record of jawless vertebrates, with new discoveries suggesting that the separation of the nasal sacs in jawless vertebrates was a key step in the evolution of jaws. Some members of the earliest jawed vertebrates, the placoderms, have recently been shown to have teeth and hypobranchial muscles similar to those in extant chondrichthyans. Associated with the evolution of jaws was the evolution of a moveable neck, which allowed the first jawed vertebrates to raise their heads and increase the size of their mouths, making it more efficient for food and water intake. The evolution of jaws and associated musculature enabled gnathostomes to occupy new niches and to radiate, leading to the great diversity observed today. New fossil discoveries continue to populate the gnathostome stem, adding to our understanding of the early diversification of this successful group of vertebrates.


Jaws Early vertebrates Placoderms Chondrichthyans 



CB is supported by the Curtin Research Fellowship and the Australian Research Council grant DP 160104427 and KT by DP140104161. We thank the Western Australian Museum and the Natural History Museum (UK) for access to specimens. We wish to thank Janine Ziermann, Rui Diogo and Raul Diaz Jr for inviting us to contribute to this volume. We would like to thank Tatsuya Hirasawa and Carole Burrow for their constructive reviews which improved the chapter.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zerina Johanson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Catherine A. Boisvert
    • 2
  • Kate Trinajstic
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesNatural History MuseumLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of Environment and Agriculture, School of Molecular and Life SciencesCurtin UniversityBentleyAustralia

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