Aquatic adaptations occur in those animals which live in water habitat, viz., fresh, brackish or sea water. They are called aquatic animals or hydrocoles. Based upon the phylogenetic history of the aquatic animals, following two types of hydrocoles have been recognised
The idea of adaptation maintains that organisms (animals and plants) are structurally and functionally designed for meeting the needs of life in the habitats in which they live. Thus, adaptations include adjustments by which an organism accommodates itself to its environment. These may occur by natural selection.
The aerial adaptations are concerned with the flight. The flight is a form of locomotion in the air under which the body has to be firstly prevented from falling down and secondly moved forwards, the speedier the better. Thus, aerial adaptations must include modifications in the animals body for reducing the weight of the body and also for the formation of organs capable of executing the flight.
The Chondrichthyes, also called elasmobranchii, comprise sharks, rays, skates, chimaeras, etc. Fishes are essentially aquatic and jaw-bearing true vertebrates. This class is specially known for their unimaginable number (about 40,000 species) and bewildering forms.
The Gnathostomata includes all vertebrates with upper and lower jaws. It comprises a wide range of animals, from fish to the various tetrapod classes, which have in turn been derived from a fish or fish-like ancestor. An entirely satisfactory classification of fishes is not easy to construct, because of the incompleteness of several parts of the fossil record, and the consequent lack of connecting links.
Holocephali (Gr. Holos = entire + kephale = head), is a very small ancient group of highly specialized marine fishes. It comprises of rat-tailed fishes. They appeared first in the lower Jurassic and at present, are represented by a few marine genera only. It includes the only cartilaginous fishes having fleshy opercular covering of the gills.
The origin and evolution of Dipnoi remains problematic due to diverse opinions. They combine characteristics in which they resemble almost all the other groups of fishes as well as Amphibia. Fossil primitive Dipnoi (e.g. Diptems), shows geater similarity with fossil crossopterygians (e.g. Osteolepis), than do their living members.
The earliest known vertebrates to appear in fossil record were jawless primitive fishlike animals collectively known as the ostracoderms, and placed under the class Ostracodermi. They resembled the present day cyclostomes (lampreys and hagfishes) in many respects and together with them, constitute a special group of jawless vertebrates, the Agnatha.
Adult cyclostomes are too specialized or too degenciative in many respect. It is probable that many adult characteristics are adaptations for parasitic mode of feeding. Some of their specialized features are SPECIALIZED AND DEGENERATED CHARACTERS OF CYCLOSTOMATES
We shall now consider the origin of the earlier chordate ancestors of vertebrates. That the chordates have originated from the invertebrates is not doubted by most zoologists now-a-days. Since the earlier chordate ancestors were all soft bodied forms, they left no fossil remains to give us clues as to origin of chordata. Therefore, the only basis for judging the origin of the group comes from the resemblances between the lower chordates (protochordates and the invertebrates).