Ancient shark-like fish is new species

Researchers working in northeastern Nevada have discovered a new species of fish that resembled a shark in both appearance and eating habits.
By Cliff Mooneyham | Aug 09, 2017
Researchers working in northeastern Nevada have discovered a new species of fish that resembled a shark in both appearance and eating habits.

The fossil measures 5.9 feet (1.8 meters) long with long jaws and three parallel rows of sharp teeth. The anatomy of the jaw with its formidable teeth is similar to a shark's and suggests the giant fish devoured its prey in the same way as a shark by clamping down on its prey before swallowing it whole.

The study is published in the Journal of Paleontology.

The ancient fish, named Birgeria americana, is a previously unknown species that lived in the ocean covering what is now Nevada and its surrounding states. The predator flourished there as soon as one million years after the great mass extinction event that took place about 252 million years ago.

Until this discovery, paleontologists believed that the first predators did not appear after the mass extinction until the Middle Triassic epoch some 247 to 235 million years ago. This is because very few vertebrate fossils in the U.S. from the Early Triassic period have been scientifically recorded.

"The surprising find from Elko County in northeastern Nevada is one of the most completely preserved vertebrate remains from this time period ever discovered in the United States," said lead author Carlo Romano, in a statement.

Birgeria shows that predators thrived relatively soon after the mass extinction, suggesting that food chains were able to re-establish themselves more quickly than scientists previously assumed.

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