The giant extinct Carcharodon megalodon

(Used with permission from Todd Marshall)

Class Chondrichthyes (chondro = cartilage, ichthyes = fish) are a diverse and highly successful group of fishes that first appear in the fossil record during the late Silurian. As their name implies, they are characterized by a skeleton made entirely of cartilage, and are therefore commonly referred to as the cartilaginous fishes. The group includes the living sharks, skates, rays and chimaeras, as well as their extinct relatives. They are the most primitive living jawed fishes. Chondrichthyans occupy a number of different ecological niches within marine, brackish and freshwater environments, and are remarkably resilient, as is evidenced by their survival across mass extinctions for over 400 million years.

Author: Andrew Gillis
Last updated: 15 November 2004
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