Ammonoids had high evolutionary rates and diversity throughout their entire history and played an important role in the high-resolution sub-division of the Mesozoic, but much of their palaeobiology remains unclear, including the brooding habitat. We present our study of the first recorded ammonite embryonic shell clusters preserved with calcified embryonic aptychi in situ within the body chambers of mature macroconch shells of the Early Aptian (Early Cretaceous) ammonite Sinzovia sazonovae. The following support the idea that the clusters are egg masses, which developed inside ammonite body chambers: the absence of post-embryonic shells and any other fossils in these clusters, the presence of the aptychi in all embryonic shell apertures and peculiarities of adult shells preservation. These facts confirm earlier speculations that at least some ammonoids could have been ovoviviparous and that, like many modern cephalopods, they could have reproduced in mass spawning events. The aptychi of ammonite embryonic shells are observed here for the first time, indicating that they were already formed and calcified before hatching. Our results are fully congruent with the peculiar modes of ammonoid evolution: quick recovery after extinctions, distinct evolutionary rates, pronounced sexual dimorphism and the nearly constant size of embryonic shells through ammonoid history. We assume that adaptation to ovoviviparity may be the reason for the presence of these features in all post-Middle Devonian ammonoids.
The article is devoted to a unique finding of clusters of embryonic shells of Aptian (Lower Cretaceous) ammonites Sinzovia sazonovae inside the body chambers of adult specimens. The excellent preservation of embryonic shells (even the aptychi of each embryonic shell survived at their apertures), and their location in the three body chambers of adult macroconchs led to the conclusion about ovoviviparity in ammonoids.
Ammonites, Aptian, aptychi, brooding habitat, Early Cretaceous, evolution, ovoviviparity