A morphological study of vertebral centra in extant species of pike, Esox (Teleostei: Esociformes)
Keywords:Esox lucius, Esox masquinongy, Esox reichertii, Esox niger, Esox americanus, centra, variation
Isolated centra of members of the Esocidae occur frequently in vertebrate microfossil localities of Late Cretaceous and early Paleocene age and are an important source of data on the early history of the family. However, morphological variation along the vertebral column can lead to incorrect interpretations of diversity if they are not recognized. To facilitate the use of centra for interpreting the diversity and distribution of esocids in Cretaceous vertebrate microfossil localities, the variation along the column in five extant species of esocids is described. Comparison with Cretaceous centra referred to the Esocidae allows identification of a series of features in which species of Esox differ from basal members of the family. These include the presence of a mid-ventral groove bordered by a pair of low budges on centra in the anterior end of the column, and antero-lateral processes on the posterior abdominal and anterior caudal centra. These differences provide a basis for recognizing early occurrences of the genus Esox in the fossil record and thus will allow centra to be used to document the timing of origin of the genus.
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Copyright (c) 2019 Sinjini Sinha, Don B Brinkman, Alison M. Murray
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