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A Significant Find By Archaeologists Hint At Piranha Like Fish In Jurassic Era

The new fish is a most interesting example of convergent evolution

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Fossil Fish
A new piranha-like fish from Jurassic seas with sharp, pointed teeth that probably fed on the fins of other fishes is seen in this artist's reconstruction of a fossil which was discovered in southern Germany in this image released from Eichstaett, Bavaria, Germany. VOA

You can call it a prehistoric prequel.

Scientists said on Thursday they have unearthed in southern Germany the fossil of a fish that, with its mouth full of razor-sharp teeth, strongly resembled today’s piranhas, the stars of more than their fair share of Hollywood horror films. But this one lived during the Jurassic Period 152 million years ago.

Named Piranhamesodon pinnatomus, it is the earliest known example of a bony fish — as opposed to cartilaginous fish like sharks — able to slice flesh rather than simply swallowing prey, enabling it to attack victims larger than itself as piranhas can.

Piranhamesodon, about 3-1/2 inches (9 cm) long, lived in the sponge and coral reefs of the Solnhofen archipelago, a shallow tropical sea in what is now Bavaria. Piranhas are freshwater fish that inhabit rivers and lakes in South America.

Fossil Fish
A new piranha-like fish fossil from Jurassic seas with sharp, pointed teeth that probably fed on the fins of other fishes, discovered in southern Germany from the time of dinosaurs and from the same deposits that contained Archaeopteryx, is seen in this image released from Eichstaett, Bavaria, Germany on October 18, 2018

Piranhamesodon was small, but its mouth was worthy of a scary movie. It boasted long, pointed, dagger-like teeth along the outer edge of its upper jaw and at the front of its lower jaw. It also had triangular teeth with serrated cutting edges on the side of its lower jaw.

“We were stunned that this fish had teeth which are capable of slicing flesh. It comes from a group of fishes, the pycnodontids, that are famous for their crushing teeth,” said paleontologist Martina Kölbl-Ebert of the Jura-Museum Eichstätt in Germany, who led the research published in the journal Current Biology.

“It is like finding a sheep with a snarl like a wolf,” Kölbl-Ebert added.

The fossil came from the same Bavarian limestone deposits as Archaeopteryx, the earliest-known bird.

“From the same quarry, we also have a number of other fish which may have been the victims of Piranhamesodon. They show injuries to their fins and fin bases, some freshly wounded before they died and got fossilized, whereas others show completely healed injuries with regeneration of the fin,” Kölbl-Ebert said.

Fossil Fish
With Piranha-Like Teeth, This Prehistoric Predator Never Bit Off More Than It Could Chew.

While it shares traits with piranhas, Piranhamesodon was neither their long-ago ancestor nor related to them at all. The oldest-known piranhas lived around 15 million years ago.

Piranhamesodon is an example of a phenomenon called convergent evolution in which organisms independently acquire similar characteristics as a result of adapting to similar ecological niches or environments.

Also Read: Fossils of 400 Year Old Invertebrate Marine Species Found in China

“The new fish is a most interesting example of convergent evolution, evolving — for bony fish then — a completely new way of life,” Kölbl-Ebert said. (VOA)

Next Story

Bluefin Tuna Sold At an Auction for a Record $3 Million

Decades-old Tsukiji was one of Japan’s most popular tourist destinations as well as the world’s biggest fish market.

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Tuna
A prospective buyer inspects the quality of a frozen tuna before the first auction of the year at the newly opened Toyosu Market, new site of Tokyo's fish market, in Tokyo, Jan. 5, 2019. VOA

A 612-pound (278-kilogram) bluefin tuna sold for a record 333.6 million yen ($3 million) in the first auction of 2019, after Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji market was moved to a new site on the city’s waterfront.

The winning bid for the prized but threatened species at the predawn auction Saturday was more than double the 2013 annual New Year auction.

It was paid by Kiyomura Corp., whose owner Kiyoshi Kimura runs the Sushi Zanmai chain. Kimura has often won the annual auction in the past.

Japanese broadcaster NHK showed a beaming Kimura saying that he was surprised by the high price of tuna this year. But he added: “The quality of the tuna I bought is the best.”

Tuna
A prospective buyers inspect the quality of tuna before the first auction of the year at the newly opened Toyosu Market, new site of Tokyo’s fish market, Jan. 5, 2019, in Tokyo.

Prices above normal

The auction prices are way above usual for bluefin tuna. The fish normally sells for up to $40 a pound ($88 a kilogram) but the price rises to more than $200 a pound near the year’s end, especially for prized catches from Oma in northern Japan.

Last year’s auction was the last at Tsukiji before the market shifted to a new facility on a former gas plant site on Tokyo Bay. The move was delayed repeatedly because of concerns over soil contamination.

Fish face extinction

Japanese are the biggest consumers of the torpedo-shaped bluefin tuna, and surging consumption here and overseas has led to overfishing of the species. Experts warn it faces extinction, with stocks of Pacific bluefin depleted by 96 percent from their pre-industrial levels.

Tuna
It was paid by Kiyomura Corp., whose owner Kiyoshi Kimura runs the Sushi Zanmai chain. Kimura has often won the annual auction in the past. Pixabay

“The celebration surrounding the annual Pacific bluefin auction hides how deeply in trouble this species really is,” said Jamie Gibbon, associate manager for global tuna conservation at The Pew Charitable Trusts.

There are signs of progress toward protecting the bluefin, and Japan and other governments have backed plans to rebuild Pacific bluefin stocks, with a target of 20 percent of historic levels by 2034.

Also Read: The Final Take On Benefits of Fish Oil and Vitamin D

Decades-old Tsukiji was one of Japan’s most popular tourist destinations as well as the world’s biggest fish market. The new market opened in October. A few businesses stayed in Tsukiji but nearly all of the 500-plus wholesalers and other businesses shifted to Toyosu.

Tsukiji is scheduled to be redeveloped, though for now it’s being turned into a parking lot for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. (VOA)