Cephalopoda is the only class of molluscs in which virtually all its modern representatives have a pair of powerful jaws. There is little doubt that jaws have contributed to the evolutionary success of cephalopods, but their origin still remains a mystery. Though cephalopods appeared at the end of the Cambrian, the oldest unequivocal jaws have been reported to date from the Late Devonian, though they were initially interpreted as phyllopod crustaceans of the suborder Discinocarina. After their relation with ammonoids was proven, they were considered as opercula, and only later their mandibular nature was recognized and widely accepted. Finds of discinocarins from Silurian deposits are still considered as opercula of ammonoid ancestors ‐ nautiloids of the order Orthocerida. However, according to modern ideas, there is no place within their soft body for the location of such large opercula. Moreover, the repeated appearance of very similar structures in the same evolutionary line at least twice, but in different places of the body and for different purposes seems highly improbable. A new hypothesis is proposed herein, in which the Silurian fossils, earlier assigned to Discinocarina, are not specialized opercula, but protective shields, to defend orthocerids not from the predators, but from their own prey. The chitinous plates around the mouth likely appeared in the Silurian orthocerids for protection from such damage and later, during Silurian and Devonian, most likely gradually evolved into the jaws.
Anaptychi, aptychi, Aptychopsis, Cephalopoda, Discinocarina, jaw apparatus.