Describing the Diversity of Paleozoic Ray-Finned Fossil Fishes

Science on Tap
Monday, December 12, 2022
6:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m. EST (UTC -5)


fish fossil

Photograph of the latex peel of YPM 8664, from Kathryn Mickle’s article “The lower actinopterygian fauna from the Lower Carboniferous Albert shale formation of New Brunswick, Canada – A review of previously described taxa and a description of a new genus and species” in Fossil Record, January 2017.

Of the approximately 45,000 species of vertebrates alive today more than half (about 27,000 species) are ray-finned fishes. Ray-finned fishes, or actinopterygians, include fishes with familiar shapes like goldfish, tuna, and salmon, as well as some very oddly shaped fishes like seahorses, flounder, and pufferfish. Not only do ray-finned fishes exhibit remarkable morphological diversity, but they are also found in diverse environments, ranging from small freshwater streams to the deep sea.

Kathryn Mickle’s research focuses on understanding the history of vertebrate evolution by studying fossils of early ray-finned fishes (lower actinopterygians) from the Paleozoic. These fish have the unfortunate distinction of being among the most understudied vertebrates, but that means there are abundant opportunities to describe new species! In her talk, Dr. Mickle will discuss her work on lower actinopterygian fishes, how new species are described, and why detailed taxonomic descriptions are important not only for our understanding of the diversity of these fossil fishes but also our understanding of today’s ray-finned fishes.

This is a FREE event, but pre-registration is required.


Kathryn Mickle headshot

Kathryn Mickle

About the Speaker

Kathryn Mickle is a paleoichthyologist whose research focuses on over 300 million-year-old fossil fishes. She has described nine new species and has led in-depth investigations into the anatomy of these fossil fish. Kathryn is currently working on writing a book on lower-actinopterygian fossil fishes. While her research focuses on fossil fish anatomy, her teaching focuses on human anatomy.

About the Series

Science on Tap is a monthly virtual speaker series that features brief, informal presentations by Philadelphia-based scientists and other experts followed by lively conversation and a Q&A. The goal is to promote enthusiasm for science in a fun, spirited, and accessible way, while also meeting new people. Come join the conversation!