Current knowledge about the evolutionary morphology of the vertebrate gastrointestinal tract (GIT) is hindered by the low preservation potential of soft tissues in fossils. Exceptionally preserved cololites of individual †Saurichthys from the Middle Triassic of Switzerland provide unique insights into the evolutionary morphology of the GIT. The GIT of †Saurichthys differed from that of other early actinopterygians, and was convergent to that of some living sharks and rays, in exhibiting up to 30 turns of the spiral valve. Dissections and literature review demonstrate the phylogenetic diversity of GIT features and signs of biological factors that influence its morphology. A phylogenetically informed analysis of a dataset containing 134 taxa suggests that body size and phylogeny are important factors affecting the spiral valve turn counts. The high number of turns in the spiral valve of †Saurichthys and some recent sharks and rays reflect both energetically demanding lifestyles and the evolutionary histories of the groups.