Imperial College London

Dr. Martin D. Brazeau

Faculty of Natural SciencesDepartment of Life Sciences (Silwood Park)




+44 (0)20 7594 2254m.brazeau




W2.2KennedySilwood Park





Publication Type

14 results found

Brazeau MD, Friedman M, Brazeau MD, Friedman M, Brazeau MD, Friedman M, Brazeau MD, Friedman Met al., 2015, The origin and early phylogenetic history of jawed vertebrates, NATURE, Vol: 520, Pages: 490-497, ISSN: 0028-0836

Fossils of early gnathostomes (or jawed vertebrates) have been the focus of study for nearly two centuries. They yield key clues about the evolutionary assembly of the group's common body plan, as well the divergence of the two living gnathostome lineages: the cartilaginous and bony vertebrates. A series of remarkable new palaeontological discoveries, analytical advances and innovative reinterpretations of existing fossil archives have fundamentally altered a decades-old consensus on the relationships of extinct gnathostomes, delivering a new evolutionary framework for exploring major questions that remain unanswered, including the origin of jaws.


Brazeau MD, de Winter V, Brazeau MD, de Winter V, Brazeau MD, de Winter V, Brazeau MD, de Winter V, Brazeau MD, de Winter Vet al., 2015, The hyoid arch and braincase anatomy of Acanthodes support chondrichthyan affinity of 'acanthodians', PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, Vol: 282, Pages: 20152210-20152210, ISSN: 0962-8452

Solving the evolutionary relationships of the acanthodians is one of the key problems in reconstructing ancestral anatomical conditions for the jawed vertebrates (gnathostomes). Current debate concerns whether acanthodians are an assemblage of stem chondrichthyans, or a more generalized grade encompassing some early stem osteichthyans. The skull anatomy of Acanthodes bronni has been pivotal in these debates, owing to tension between chondrichthyan- and osteichthyan-like models of reconstruction. We use computed tomography scanning and traditional palaeontological techniques to resolve the long-standing debate about the anatomy of the jaw suspension. We establish the correct length of the hyomandibula and show that it attaches to a process on the ventrolateral angle of the braincase below the jugular vein groove. This condition corresponds precisely to that in chondrichthyans. This character represents an unambiguously optimized synapomorphy with chondrichthyans given current gnathostome phylogenies, corroborating the growing consensus of the chondrichthyan affinity of acanthodians.


Giles S, Coates MI, Garwood RJ, Brazeau MD, Atwood R, Johanson Z, Friedman M, Giles S, Coates MI, Garwood RJ, Brazeau MD, Atwood R, Johanson Z, Friedman M, Giles S, Coates MI, Garwood RJ, Brazeau MD, Atwood R, Johanson Z, Friedman M, Giles S, Coates MI, Garwood RJ, Brazeau MD, Atwood R, Johanson Z, Friedman M, Giles S, Coates MI, Garwood RJ, Brazeau MD, Atwood R, Johanson Z, Friedman Met al., 2015, Endoskeletal structure in Cheirolepis (Osteichthyes, Actinopterygii), An early ray-finned fish, PALAEONTOLOGY, Vol: 58, Pages: 849-870, ISSN: 0031-0239

As the sister lineage of all other actinopterygians, the Middle to Late Devonian (Eifelian-Frasnian) Cheirolepis occupies a pivotal position in vertebrate phylogeny. Although the dermal skeleton of this taxon has been exhaustively described, very little of its endoskeleton is known, leaving questions of neurocranial and fin evolution in early ray-finned fishes unresolved. The model for early actinopterygian anatomy has instead been based largely on the Late Devonian (Frasnian) Mimipiscis, preserved in stunning detail from the Gogo Formation of Australia. Here, we present re-examinations of existing museum specimens through the use of high-resolution laboratory- and synchrotron-based computed tomography scanning, revealing new details of the neuro-cranium, hyomandibula and pectoral fin endoskeleton for the Eifelian Cheirolepis trailli. These new data highlight traits considered uncharacteristic of early actinopterygians, including an uninvested dorsal aorta and imperforate propterygium, and corroborate the early divergence of Cheirolepis within actinopterygian phylogeny. These traits represent conspicuous differences between the endoskeletal structure of Cheirolepis and Mimipiscis. Additionally, we describe new aspects of the parasphenoid, vomer and scales, most notably that the scales display peg-and-socket articulation and a distinct neck. Collectively, these new data help clarify primitive conditions within ray-finned fishes, which in turn have important implications for understanding features likely present in the last common ancestor of living osteichthyans.


Giles S, Friedman M, Brazeau MD, Giles S, Friedman M, Brazeau MD, Giles S, Friedman M, Brazeau MD, Giles S, Friedman M, Brazeau MDet al., 2015, Osteichthyan-like cranial conditions in an Early Devonian stem gnathostome, NATURE, Vol: 520, Pages: 82-U175, ISSN: 0028-0836

The phylogeny of Silurian and Devonian (443-358 million years (Myr) ago) fishes remains the foremost problem in the study of the origin of modern gnathostomes (jawed vertebrates). A central question concerns the morphology of the last common ancestor of living jawed vertebrates, with competing hypotheses advancing either a chondrichthyan- or osteichthyan-like model. Here we present Janusiscus schultzei gen. et sp. nov., an Early Devonian (approximately 415 Myr ago) gnathostome from Siberia previously interpreted as a ray-finned fish, which provides important new information about cranial anatomy near the last common ancestor of chondrichthyans and osteichthyans. The skull roof of Janusiscus resembles that of early osteichthyans, with large plates bearing vermiform ridges and partially enclosed sensory canals. High-resolution computed tomography (CT) reveals a braincase bearing characters typically associated with either chondrichthyans (large hypophyseal opening accommodating the internal carotid arteries) or osteichthyans (facial nerve exiting through jugular canal, endolymphatic ducts exiting posterior to the skull roof) but lacking a ventral cranial fissure, the presence of which is considered a derived feature of crown gnathostomes. A conjunction of well-developed cranial processes in Janusiscus helps unify the comparative anatomy of early jawed vertebrate neurocrania, clarifying primary homologies in 'placoderms', osteichthyans and chondrichthyans. Phylogenetic analysis further supports the chondrichthyan affinities of 'acanthodians', and places Janusiscus and the enigmatic Ramirosuarezia in a polytomy with crown gnathostomes. The close correspondence between the skull roof of Janusiscus and that of osteichthyans suggests that an extensive dermal skeleton was present in the last common ancestor of jawed vertebrates, but ambiguities arise from uncertainties in the anatomy of Ramirosuarezia. The unexpected contrast between endoskeletal structure in Janusiscu


Brazeau MD, Friedman M, Brazeau MD, Friedman M, Brazeau MD, Friedman M, Brazeau MD, Friedman Met al., 2014, The characters of Palaeozoic jawed vertebrates, ZOOLOGICAL JOURNAL OF THE LINNEAN SOCIETY, Vol: 170, Pages: 779-821, ISSN: 0024-4082

Newly discovered fossils from the Silurian and Devonian periods are beginning to challenge embedded perceptions about the origin and early diversification of jawed vertebrates (gnathostomes). Nevertheless, an explicit cladistic framework for the relationships of these fossils relative to the principal crown lineages of the jawed vertebrates (osteichthyans: bony fishes and tetrapods; chondrichthyans: sharks, batoids, and chimaeras) remains elusive. We critically review the systematics and character distributions of early gnathostomes and provide a clearly stated hierarchy of synapomorphies covering the jaw-bearing stem gnathostomes and osteichthyan and chondrichthyan stem groups. We show that character lists, designed to support the monophyly of putative groups, tend to overstate their strength and lack cladistic corroboration. By contrast, synapomorphic hierarchies are more open to refutation and must explicitly confront conflicting evidence. Our proposed synapomorphy scheme is used to evaluate the status of the problematic fossil groups Acanthodii and Placodermi, and suggest profitable avenues for future research. We interpret placoderms as a paraphyletic array of stem-group gnathostomes, and suggest what we regard as two equally plausible placements of acanthodians: exclusively on the chondrichthyan stem, or distributed on both the chondrichthyan and osteichthyan stems.


Friedman M, Brazeau MD, Friedman M, Brazeau MD, Friedman M, Brazeau MD, Friedman M, Brazeau MDet al., 2013, PALAEONTOLOGY A jaw-dropping fossil fish, NATURE, Vol: 502, Pages: 175-177, ISSN: 0028-0836


Brazeau MD, BRAZEAU MARTIND, 2012, A revision of the anatomy of the Early Devonian jawed vertebrate Ptomacanthus anglicus Miles, PALAEONTOLOGY, Vol: 55, Pages: 355-367, ISSN: 0031-0239


Anderson PSL, Friedman M, Brazeau MD, Rayfield EJ, Anderson PSL, Friedman M, Brazeau MD, Rayfield EJ, Anderson PSL, Friedman M, Brazeau MD, Brazeau MD, Rayfield EJ, Anderson PSL, Friedman M, Brazeau MD, Rayfield EJet al., 2011, Initial radiation of jaws demonstrated stability despite faunal and environmental change, NATURE, Vol: 476, Pages: 206-209, ISSN: 0028-0836

More than 99 per cent of the roughly 58,000 living vertebrate species have jaws. This major clade, whose members are collectively known as gnathostomes ('jawed mouths'), made its earliest definitive appearance in the Silurian period, 444-416 million years (Myr) ago, with both the origin of the modern (crown-group) radiation and the presumptive invasion of land occurring by the end of the Devonian period (359 Myr ago). These events coincided with a major faunal shift that remains apparent today: the transition from Silurian ecosystems dominated by jawless fishes (agnathans) to younger assemblages composed almost exclusively of gnathostomes. This pattern has inspired several qualitative descriptions of the trophic radiation and ecological ascendance of the earliest jawed vertebrates. Here we present a quantitative analysis of functional variation in early gnathostome mandibular elements, placing constraints on our understanding of evolutionary patterns during this critical interval. We document an initial increase in functional disparity in the Silurian that stabilized by the first stage of the Devonian, before the occurrence of an Emsian (∼400 Myr ago) oxygenation event implicated in the trophic radiation of vertebrates. Subsequent taxonomic diversification during the Devonian did not result in increased functional variation; instead, new taxa revisited and elaborated on established mandibular designs. Devonian functional space is dominated by lobe-finned fishes and 'placoderms'; high disparity within the latter implies considerable trophic innovation among jaw-bearing stem gnathostomes. By contrast, the major groups of living vertebrates--ray-finned fishes and tetrapods--show surprisingly conservative mandibular morphologies with little indication of functional diversification or innovation. Devonian gnathostomes reached a point where they ceased to accrue further mandibular functional disparity before becoming taxonomic dominants relative to 'ostr


Brazeau MD, BRAZEAU MARTIND, 2011, Problematic character coding methods in morphology and their effects, BIOLOGICAL JOURNAL OF THE LINNEAN SOCIETY, Vol: 104, Pages: 489-498, ISSN: 0024-4066


Friedman M, Brazeau MD, Friedman M, Brazeau MD, Friedman M, Brazeau MD, Brazeau MD, Friedman M, Brazeau MDet al., 2011, Sequences, stratigraphy and scenarios: what can we say about the fossil record of the earliest tetrapods?, PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, Vol: 278, Pages: 432-439, ISSN: 0962-8452

Past research on the emergence of digit-bearing tetrapods has led to the widely accepted premise that this important evolutionary event occurred during the Late Devonian. The discovery of convincing digit-bearing tetrapod trackways of early Middle Devonian age in Poland has upset this orthodoxy, indicating that current scenarios which link the timing of the origin of digited tetrapods to specific events in Earth history are likely to be in error. Inspired by this find, we examine the fossil record of early digit-bearing tetrapods and their closest fish-like relatives from a statistical standpoint. We find that the Polish trackways force a substantial reconsideration of the nature of the early tetrapod record when only body fossils are considered. However, the effect is less drastic (and often not statistically significant) when other reliably dated trackways that were previously considered anachronistic are taken into account. Using two approaches, we find that 95 per cent credible and confidence intervals for the origin of digit-bearing tetrapods extend into the Early Devonian and beyond, spanning late Emsian to mid Ludlow. For biologically realistic diversity models, estimated genus-level preservation rates for Devonian digited tetrapods and their relatives range from 0.025 to 0.073 per lineage-million years, an order of magnitude lower than species-level rates for groups typically considered to have dense records. Available fossils of early digited tetrapods and their immediate relatives are adequate for documenting large-scale patterns of character acquisition associated with the origin of terrestriality, but low preservation rates coupled with clear geographical and stratigraphic sampling biases caution against building scenarios for the origin of digits and terrestrialization tied to the provenance of particular specimens or faunas.




Brazeau MD, Brazeau MD, Brazeau MD, Brazeau MD, Brazeau MDet al., 2009, The braincase and jaws of a Devonian 'acanthodian' and modern gnathostome origins, NATURE, Vol: 457, Pages: 305-308, ISSN: 0028-0836

Modern gnathostomes (jawed vertebrates) emerged in the early Palaeozoic era, but this event remains unclear owing to a scant early fossil record. The exclusively Palaeozoic 'acanthodians' are possibly the earliest gnathostome group and exhibit a mosaic of shark- and bony fish-like characters that has long given them prominence in discussions of early gnathostome evolution. Their relationships with modern gnathostomes have remained mysterious, partly because their un-mineralized endoskeletons rarely fossilized. Here I present the first-known braincase of an Early Devonian (approximately 418-412 Myr bp) acanthodian, Ptomacanthus anglicus, and re-evaluate the interrelationships of basal gnathostomes. Acanthodian braincases have previously been represented by a single genus, Acanthodes, which occurs more than 100 million years later in the fossil record. The braincase of Ptomacanthus differs radically from the osteichthyan-like braincase of Acanthodes in exhibiting several plesiomorphic features shared with placoderms and some early chondrichthyans. Most striking is its extremely short sphenoid region and its jaw suspension, which displays features intermediate between some Palaeozoic chondrichthyans and osteichthyans. Phylogenetic analysis resolves Ptomacanthus as either the most basal chondrichthyan or as the sister group of all living gnathostomes. These new data alter earlier conceptions of basal gnathostome phylogeny and thus help to provide a more detailed picture of the acquisition of early gnathostome characters.


Brazeau MD, Jeffery JE, Brazeau MD, Jeffery JE, Brazeau MD, Brazeau MD, Jeffery JE, Brazeau MD, Jeffery JEet al., 2008, The hyomandibulae of rhizodontids (Sarcopterygii, stem-tetrapoda), JOURNAL OF MORPHOLOGY, Vol: 269, Pages: 654-665, ISSN: 0362-2525

Despite its important role in the study of the evolution of tetrapods, the hyomandibular bone (the homologue of the stapes in crown-group tetrapods) is known for only a few of the fish-like members of the tetrapod stem-group. The best-known example, that of the tristichopterid Eusthenopteron, has been used as an exemplar of fish-like stem-tetrapod hyomandibula morphology, but in truth the conditions at the base of the tetrapod radiation remain obscure. We report, here, four hyomandibulae, from three separate localities, which are referable to the Rhizodontida, the most basal clade of stem-tetrapods. These specimens share a number of characteristics, and are appreciably different from the small number of hyomandibulae reported for other fish-like stem-tetrapods. While it is unclear if these characteristics represent synapomorphies or symplesiomorphies, they highlight the morphological diversity of hyomandibulae within the early evolution of the tetrapod total-group. Well-preserved muscle scarring on some of these hyomandibulae permit more robust inferences of hyoid arch musculature in stem-tetrapods.


Brazeau MD, Ahlberg PE, Brazeau MD, Ahlberg PE, Brazeau MD, Brazeau MD, Ahlberg PE, Brazeau MD, Ahlberg PEet al., 2006, Tetrapod-like middle ear architecture in a Devonian fish, NATURE, Vol: 439, Pages: 318-321, ISSN: 0028-0836

Few fossils show the incipient stages of complex morphological transformations. For example, the earliest stages in the remodelling of the spiracular tract and suspensorium (jaw suspension) of osteolepiform fishes into the middle ear of tetrapods have remained elusive. The most primitive known tetrapods show a middle ear architecture that is very different from osteolepiforms such as Eusthenopteron, with little indication of how this transformation took place. Here we present an analysis of tetrapod middle ear origins that is based on a detailed study of Panderichthys, the immediate sister taxon of tetrapods. We show that the spiracular region is radically transformed from osteolepiforms and represents the earliest stages in the origin of the tetrapod middle ear architecture. The posterior palatoquadrate of Panderichthys is completely tetrapod-like and defines a similarly tetrapod-like spiracular tract. The hyomandibula has lost its distal portion, representing a previously unrecognized advance towards a stapes-like morphology. This spiracular specialization suggests that the middle ear of early tetrapods evolved initially as part of a spiracular breathing apparatus.


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