Ostracoderms: The First Vertebrates (PA-18)
The first vertebrates were fishlike animals that appeared more than 500 million years ago. The internal skeletons of these jawless creatures were cartilaginous and rarely preserved. Ostracoderms had bony external shields that covered the head and most of the trunk.

From 3 to 10 inches long, ostracoderms had rather thick, flattened bodies with only a pair of side flaps to help in steering. They probably swam clumsily just above the sea floor. The mouth served to obtain oxygen and to retain bits of food.

After true fish appeared about 400 million years ago, most ostracoderms rapidly became extinct. An armorless type survived, giving rise to modern lampreys and hagfish. Some ostracoderm plates are found in Devonian bone beds in Indiana.

Our Hoosier State Beneath Us: Paleontology

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