STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

This Jurassic flesh-eating fish with piranha-like teeth is the stuff of nightmares

A new fossil discovery looks more like an incredibly well-preserved 150 million-year-old Jurassic crime scen...

Posted: Oct 18, 2018 3:29 PM
Updated: Oct 18, 2018 3:29 PM

A new fossil discovery looks more like an incredibly well-preserved 150 million-year-old Jurassic crime scene. This species of flesh-eating fish is considered the earliest known to do so. And in the same limestone deposits from South Germany, researchers found its victims, with damaged bodies and fins.

The nearly complete fossil is described in a study published Thursday in the journal Current Biology. It was uncovered in 2016 from the same well-known and -studied fossil deposit that contained the first Archaeopteryx fossil found in 1860.

Natural sciences

Paleontology

Science

The researchers have dubbed the fish Piranhamesodon pinnatomus, which combines "piranha" and "fin-cutter."

Luckily, the jaws were well-preserved and showcased rows of long, pointed teeth at the front of the upper and lower jaws, as well as the exterior of the vormer, the bone forming the roof of the mouth. Researchers also found triangle-shaped teeth with serrated edges along the side of the lower jaw, which would act like scissors.

"We were stunned that this fish had piranha-like teeth," study author Martina Kölbl-Ebert, director of the Jura-Museum in Eichstätt, Germany, said in a statement. "It comes from a group of fishes (the pycnodontids) that are famous for their crushing teeth. It is like finding a sheep with a snarl like a wolf."

Previous examples of pycnodontids used their crushing teeth to eat hard-shelled prey. Their fossils were found with preserved shells and sea urchin spines in their guts.

But these dagger-like teeth, slightly curved backward, were designed to attack. And unlike with other pycnodontids, the researchers realized that their sharpest teeth frequently grew back to replace broken ones.

"Fish as we know them, bony fishes, just did not bite flesh of other fishes at that time," Kölbl-Ebert said. "Sharks have been able to bite out chunks of flesh but throughout history bony fishes have either fed on invertebrates or largely swallowed their prey whole. Biting chunks of flesh or fins was something that came much later."

This means that like modern piranhas, which live in fresh water, Piranhamesodon used its teeth to cut flesh. But it now predates piranhas in their behavior.

"The new finding represents the earliest record of a bony fish that bit bits off other fishes, and what's more it was doing it in the sea," study co-author David Bellwood, professor in James Cook University's College of Science and Engineering in Australia, said in a statement. "So when dinosaurs were walking the earth and small dinosaurs were trying to fly with the pterosaurs, fish were swimming around their feet tearing the fins or flesh off each other."

The jaws of these fish were incredibly strong but short, which meant they could attack with force but not swallow large prey whole. Instead, like modern piranhas, Piranhamesodon would cut chunks of flesh and fin from other fish with no problem.

Due to its flat body shape, Piranhamesodon would have been slow-moving, but it also had large fins that enabled it to maneuver well in the shallow tropical waters where it lived.

This probably means Piranhamesodon would have approached and attacked unsuspecting fish, tearing away scales, fins and flesh, according to the study.

Fish fossils recovered from the same deposit showed evidence of injuries that matches with this style of attack.

"We have other fish from the same locality with chunks missing from their fins," Bellwood said. "This is an amazing parallel with modern piranhas, which feed predominantly not on flesh but the fins of other fishes. It's a remarkably smart move as fins regrow, a neat renewable resource. Feed on a fish and it is dead; nibble its fins and you have food for the future."

Huntsville
Scattered Clouds
68° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 68°
Florence
Scattered Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 70°
Fayetteville
Few Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 70°
Decatur
Few Clouds
67° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 67°
Scottsboro
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 64°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 18630

Reported Deaths: 646
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2271118
Jefferson1859103
Montgomery175843
Tuscaloosa79916
Marshall7009
Franklin5628
Lee55033
Shelby52220
Tallapoosa42765
Butler41418
Unassigned3842
Walker3702
Elmore3628
Chambers35825
Madison3434
Baldwin2929
Morgan2871
Dallas2793
Etowah26012
Lowndes25212
DeKalb2493
Coffee2381
Autauga2335
Sumter2247
Houston2214
Bullock2096
Pike2060
Colbert1862
Russell1750
Hale1759
Barbour1721
Marengo1716
Lauderdale1662
Calhoun1643
Choctaw15310
Wilcox1507
Cullman1471
Clarke1462
St. Clair1281
Randolph1277
Dale1220
Marion12211
Pickens1184
Talladega1175
Limestone1080
Chilton1031
Greene954
Winston900
Macon854
Covington811
Jackson812
Henry802
Bibb761
Crenshaw753
Escambia723
Washington716
Blount631
Lawrence500
Monroe432
Geneva430
Perry420
Conecuh411
Coosa401
Cherokee383
Clay282
Lamar260
Fayette160
Cleburne151

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 22566

Reported Deaths: 364
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Davidson504062
Shelby4943111
Trousdale13924
Rutherford119623
Sumner88145
Hamilton79415
Bledsoe6071
Williamson55210
Putnam4795
Robertson4653
Tipton4423
Out of TN4184
Lake4140
Wilson4078
Knox3755
Bedford2834
Montgomery2693
Rhea2100
Hardeman1960
Madison1752
Loudon1430
McMinn14114
Macon1363
Cheatham1230
Bradley1221
Fayette1152
Cumberland1121
Dickson1090
Unassigned920
Blount913
Maury890
Sevier812
Washington750
Coffee730
Wayne640
Gibson631
Monroe622
Sullivan602
Hickman580
Lauderdale561
Franklin531
Greene502
Dyer500
Marion401
Anderson401
DeKalb370
Hamblen362
Smith341
White330
Hawkins332
Lawrence310
Grundy311
Haywood312
Marshall311
Obion301
Henry300
Jefferson280
Carroll271
Overton260
Meigs260
Weakley260
Lincoln250
Warren230
Cannon210
Perry210
Cocke200
Carter191
Campbell181
Morgan170
Jackson170
Crockett162
Roane160
Polk160
Johnson160
Henderson150
Hardin152
Sequatchie150
Humphreys131
Fentress120
McNairy120
Chester120
Giles120
Scott120
Stewart110
Claiborne90
Houston80
Grainger80
Clay70
Benton71
Decatur50
Unicoi40
Union40
Van Buren40
Lewis30
Pickett30
Moore30
Hancock10

 

 

Community Events