The morphology of the skin of living dipnoans can be compared with the arrangements present in the dermis and epidermis of the snout and mandible of fossil dipnoans, but the structures that may have been present in the fossils are significantly reduced in living lungfish. One advantage of assessing the living species is that soft tissues are intact. Fossil dipnoans have cosmine in the epidermis of the snout and mandible, and the dermis is supported by several layers of structured extracellular matrix. Cosmine includes dentine elements as well as pore canals. Among the pore canals are gaps in the cosmine layer that would have housed electroreceptors in the living fish. Below the cosmine is a layer of cancellous bone, separated from the dermal tissues within by a thin, almost continuous, ossified layer. Deep to this layer is a region that lacks any ossified structure, and below this the tubules that pass through the dermis terminate in irregular bulbs. Thin branches with an ossified coat arise from the tubules in the terminal layer and enter the cancellous bone below the cosmine and the pore canals, although they are not numerous. Living dipnoans have no ossified structures in the skin, and lymphatic vessels in the snout are reduced to the plexus below the epidermis, and the lymphatic loops that emerge from the plexus and enter the epidermis. These are numerous and occur in regular layers. In the living species, the lymphatic loops are close to electroreceptors. This may have been the case in fossil lungfish as well. Parallels in fossil and living dipnoans are present.
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Vol. 67 • No. 4