The braincase of an Upper Devonian shark (Cladodoides wildungensis) is investigated using high-resolution CT scanning, and its internal and external morphology is described from three-dimensional digital reconstructions. Many features are shared with modern elasmobranchs (neoselachians); these mostly represent conserved elasmobranch, chondrichthyan, or gnathostome characters. C. wildungensis resembles neoselachians in having a closed metotic fissure defining a glossopharyngeal canal, unlike some early chondrichthyans (e.g., Pucapampella, Orthacanthus) in which an open metotic fissure extends a considerable distance beneath the otic capsule. However, the glossopharyngeal canal in C. wildungensis is connected to a persistent dorsal fissure between the occipital arch and otic capsules, whereas this fissure becomes closed during neoselachian ontogeny. The embryonic polar cartilage apparently made a much greater contribution to the basicranium than in neoselachians and gnathostomes generally. This has affected the position of the efferent pseudobranchial foramen and the location of the orbital articulation in Cladodoides (both of which are located anteriorly in the orbit), as well as the size and extent of the dorsum sellae and the hypophyseal chamber inside the braincase. Another unusual feature in Cladodoides is the postorbital position of its trigeminal and facial nerves; instead of being situated in a trigemino-facial fossa of the orbit as in neoselachians, their foramina are located behind the postorbital process, although the pituitary vein and the origin of the external rectus eye muscle (located within the trigemino-facial fossa in neoselachians) both lie in the posterior part of the orbit. The oblique orientation of the postorbital arcade (derived from the embryonic lateral commissure) may be related to the exclusion of the trigeminal and facial nerves from the orbit. A laterally oriented canal through the process probably contained the trigeminal maxillary ramus (perhaps accompanied by the buccal ramus of the anterodorsal lateral line nerve). By contrast, in neoselachians these rami pass directly into the orbit (sometimes forming a buccal-maxillary complex), but they do not pass through the postorbital process. The Cladodoides braincase probably represents a juvenile or submature individual and shows indications of incomplete development (e.g., presence of a wide bucco-hypophyseal fenestra and absence of a precarotid commissure; incomplete enclosure of the internal carotids and orbital arteries by basicranial cartilage; incomplete closure of the braincase roof along the dorsal midline). The braincase also lacks multiple-layered prismatic calcification, possibly representing another juvenile feature. The phylogenetic relationship of Cladodoides wildungensis is discussed. Dental, postcranial, and cranial features lend some support to the old hypothesis that cladodont sharks form a monophyletic group. While such a view is at variance with several recently published phylogenetic analyses, many of the characters noted in the present work have yet to be tested within a rigorous cladistic framework, and their phylogenetic significance is uncertain.
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Vol. 2005 • No. 288