The preserved fossil of an odd flesh-eating fish that lived during the dinosaur era has been unearthed — along with some of its possible victims.
The 150-million-year-old fish, named Piranhamesodon pinnatomus, was a lord of disguise. While it appeared just like any other bony fish streaming in the tropical, warm seas, it possessed razor-sharp teeth ala piranhas — ideal for tearing chunks out of its preys’ fins. It’s a ploy that caught its ancient victim— and today’s scientists — by astonishment.
The prehistoric crime scene was discovered in a southern Germany quarry famous for its majestic fossils of the celebrated Archaeopteryx, a bird-like dinosaur. The fossils of its victims and the new fish, reported in the journal Current Biology today, were unveiled in 2016 by a team of researchers from the Jura Museum in Eichstätt. Martina Kölbl-Ebert, the museum’s director, noted the flesh-eater, which was detected by her co-author and spouse Martin, was unlike anything she had ever seen before.
“He called me and said ‘look at these teeth, this is quite unusual, That can’t happen, it’s like you have a chimera. It doesn’t look like anything else I’ve ever seen in [this kind of fish],” said Martina. The fish wouldn’t have been the lone flesh-eater dabbling in the planet’s oceans at the time. Sharks were there that could yank pieces off their prey, and there were additional fish that consumed their prey whole. Although, this is the eldest-known flesh-eating bony webbed finned fish. The fish, which from tip to tail was roughly 9 centimeters, was part of an extinct bunch of bony reef fish dubbed as pycnodontiform.
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