Denison, Robert H. Curator of Fossil Fishes, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois.
Olson, Everett C. Department of Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, California.
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A class of fishes (Pisces) known from the Devonian Period, and a few that survived into the base of the Carboniferous. They were true fishes or gnathostomes, and can be distinguished from other fishes by the following characters: the gill chamber extends far under the cranium and is covered laterally by opercula; there is a neck joint between the cranium and the fused anterior vertebrae; often there is also a coaxial joint developed between the dermal bones of the cranial roof and shoulder girdle; the head and shoulder girdle are covered with dermal bones composed typically of cellular bone and superficially of semidentine instead of true dentine; the bones are commonly ornamented with tubercles or ridges; the endoskeleton is cartilage and may be calcified in a globular fashion or perichondrally ossified; the notochord is persistent, and the vertebrae consist only of neural and hemal arches; the tail is diphycercal or slightly heterocercal, and an anal fin is lacking.
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