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Reichenbacher, Bettina; Gregorova, Ruzena; Holcova, Katarina; Sanda, Radek; Vukic, Jasna and Prikryl, Tomas (2018): Discovery of the oldest Gobius (Teleostei, Gobiiformes) from a marine ecosystem of Early Miocene age. In: Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, Vol. 16, No. 6: pp. 493-513

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Gobiidae (Gobiiformes, Teleostei) is among the largest families of vertebrates. These fishes are distributed worldwide and contribute significantly to species diversity in marine habitats and reefs. However, their fossil record is sparse prior to the Miocene and little is known about the course of diversification of the clade. Here we report exceptionally well-preserved skeletal remains of the oldest known Gobius from an Early Miocene (Burdigalian) marine ecosystem of Central Europe (Czech Republic). Gobius jarosi Pikryl & Reichenbacher sp. nov. is dated to 19.1-20.4 Ma by biostratigraphical analysis of calcareous nannoplankton from small fragments of the holotype matrix. Gobius jarosi sp. nov. is characterized by a pterygiophore formula of 3-22110 and a premaxilla with a distinctive postmaxillary process, has 11 abdominal and 16-17 caudal vertebrae, six thin spines in the first dorsal fin and one spine and 12 soft rays in the second dorsal fin, one spine and 11 rays in the anal fin, and two anal fin pterygiophores preceding the first haemal spine. Large ctenoid scales cover the body except for its anterior portion and the head. A comparative analysis of meristic and osteological data suggests close affinities between G. jarosi sp. nov. and the extant species G. niger, G. roulei and G. vittatus. Accompanying fish fossils and nannoplankton assemblages indicate that G. jarosi sp. nov., like G. roulei and G. vittatus, lived in an inshore to offshore marine ecosystem. The discovery of such an early member of the lineage leading to the present-day species of Gobius has important implications for the origin and evolution of the Gobiidae, and indicates that diversification of the European Gobiidae began in, but not before, the Early Miocene.

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