Definitions for osteostraci
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Osteostraci, suborder Osteostraci, Cephalaspida, suborder Cephalaspida(noun)
extinct group of armored fish-like vertebrates; taxonomy is not clear
The class Osteostraci was a group of bony-armored jawless fish, termed "ostracoderms", that lived in what is now North America, Europe and Russia from the Middle Silurian to Late Devonian. Anatomically speaking, the osteostracans, especially the Devonian species, were among the most advanced of all known agnathans. This is due to the development of paired fins, and their complicated cranial anatomy. The osteostracans were more similar to lampreys than to jawed vertebrates in possessing two pairs of semicircular canals in the inner ear, as opposed to the three pairs found in the inner ears of jawed vertebrates. They are thought to be the sister-group of pituriaspids, and together, these two taxa of jawless vertebrates are the sister-group of gnathostomes. Several synapomorphies support this hypothesis, such as the presence of: sclerotic ossicles, paired pectoral fins, a dermal skeleton with three layers, and perichondral bone. Most osteostracans had a massive cephalothorac shield, but all Middle and Late Devonian species appear to have had a reduced, thinner, and often micromeric dermal skeleton. This reduction may have occurred at least three times independently because the pattern of reduction is different in each taxon.
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