Ancient predatory fish discovered in Arctic

By on Sep 14, 2011

A new species of carnivorous fish dating back over 375 million years was recently found in the Canadian Arctic. The fossils discovered show a large river-dwelling fish that preyed whatever passed in front of it.

According to the study describing the newly-discovered species, co-author Ted Daeschler, a vertebrate zoologist at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, describes the 6-foot-long Laccognathus embryi as “the kind of fish that was waiting to lunge out to grab whatever was in front of it.”

The ancient fish resembled the modern grouper with thick, quarter-size scales to go with tiny eyes, a flat head and a wide mouth. The fossil head “looks like a big, smiling face looking up at you,” added Daeschler.

The fish was discovered in an area that proved to be quite ripe with other key fossil discoveries including Tiktaalik roseae, a fossil creature that lived during the same period as L. embryi and is considered to be a crucial link between fish and early limbed animals.

According to Daeschler, the period was also “a very watershed time in the history of life on Earth, because you’re seeing the dwindling—the end—of many of the more archaic groups … including many of the lobe-finned fish.”  At the same time, “you’re seeing the beginnings of the groups that go on to dominate the vertebrate fauna for the next 375 million years … the upstarts if you want.”

The typical ray-finned body type we see in modern fish began to take over and dominate the seas. Discoveries like this are key to showing how the progression was made between large predatory fish and wild seas of the past and the modern ocean-dwelling creatures we see today.

[via National Geographic]

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