Definitions for ostracodermˈɒs trə koʊˌdɜrm
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extinct fish-like jawless vertebrate having a heavily armored body; of the Paleozoic
Ostracoderms refers to the armored jawless fishes of the Paleozoic. The term does not often appear in classifications today because it is paraphyletic or polyphyletic, and has no phylogenetic meaning. However, the term is still used as an informal way of loosely grouping together the armored jawless fishes. An innovation of ostracoderms was the use of gills not for feeding, but exclusively for respiration. Earlier chordates with gills used them for both respiration and feeding. Ostracoderms had separate pharyngeal gill pouches along the side of the head, which were permanently open with no protective operculum. Unlike invertebrates that use ciliated motion to move food, ostracoderms used their muscular pharynx to create a suction that pulled small and slow moving prey into their mouths. The first fossil fishes that were discovered were ostracoderms. The Swiss anatomist Louis Agassiz received some fossils of bony armored fish from Scotland in the 1830s. He had a hard time classifying them as they did not resemble any living creature. He compared them at first with extant armored fish such as catfish and sturgeons but later realizing that they had no movable jaws, classified them in 1844 into a new group "ostracoderms" which means "shell-skinned".
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