Fossil Record

The sarcopterygians appeared as early as the Late Silurian along with other types of bony fish. They diversified in the Devonian and were a more significant group than the actinopterygians at that time. They were mostly large fish that flourished in marine, brackish and fresh water. Most forms became extinct in the Late Devonian extinction event and the only marine forms that remained were the coelacanths.

Freshwater types were still abundant, including the rhizodonts and lungfish. In the Mesozoic, the coelacanths became less common in the seas, and in the freshwater environment only the lungfish remained who virtually looked identical to modern species. Today only seven species of the once diverse sarcopterygians remain.

Major Subgroups

A cladogram of the Sarcopterygii

    |    `---Actinistia
    |--- Rhipidistia

Author: Snorri Sigurdsson (Email:
Last updated: 14 November 2004
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Websites produced by students on the MSc Palaeobiology programme in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol for academic year 2004-5