Potanichthys xingyiensis gen. et sp. nov.
Reconstruction & Holotype (a)
Flying fishes are extraordinary aquatic vertebrates capable of gliding great distances over water by exploiting their enlarged pectoral fins and asymmetrical caudal fin. Some 50 species of extant flying fishes are classified in the Exocoetidae (Neopterygii: Teleostei), which have a fossil record no older than the Eocene. The Thoracopteridae is the only pre-Cenozoic group of non-teleosts that shows an array of features associated with the capability of over-water gliding. Until recently, however, the fossil record of the Thoracopteridae has been limited to the Upper Triassic of Austria and Italy. Here, we report the discovery of exceptionally well-preserved fossils of a new thoracopterid flying fish from the Middle Triassic of China, which represents the earliest evidence of an over-water gliding strategy in vertebrates. The results of a phylogenetic analysis resolve the Thoracopteridae as a stem-group of the Neopterygii that is more crown-ward than the Peltopleuriformes, yet more basal than the Luganoiiformes. As the first record of the Thoracopteride in Asia, this new discovery extends the geographical distribution of this group from the western to eastern rim of the Palaeotethys Ocean, providing new evidence to support the Triassic biological exchanges between Europe and southern China. Additionally, the Middle Triassic date of the new thoracopterid supports the hypothesis that the re-establishment of marine ecosystems after end-Permian mass extinction is more rapid than previously thought.
Keywords: Thoracopteridae, Exocoetidae, flying fish, predator-driven evolution, Triassic
Reconstruction of the phenotype of Potanichthys xingyiensis gen. et sp. nov.
Xu G-H, Zhao L-J, Gao K-Q, Wu F-X. 2013. A new stem-neopterygian fish from the Middle Triassic of China shows the earliest over-water gliding strategy of the vertebrates. Proc R Soc B. 20122261. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2012.2261