The fossil of a species of fish that went extinct 350 million years ago was discovered this week under a roadway in Waterloo along the eastern coast of South Africa.
The fossil was found by researchers under a farm road in Waterloo after a decades-long search since the species was first discovered in 1995. Since then, the hunt for a full set of bones from the fish has eluded the researchers – until now. The massive prehistoric creature dates back to the Devonian period, a time during the Paleozoic Era, and belonged to the tristichopterid family.
Tristichopterids are large, bony fish that average about 8 feet long. Scientists believe the large fish would have been a predator that lurked in darkness and pounced upon prey passing by. Some researchers believe the timing may indicate the large fish at times feasted on the ancestors of humans, four-legged creatures called tetrapods that later evolved into modern day humans.
The discovery of the fossils at Waterloo Farm this month is the first indication that the fish lived in the fresh waters of the former supercontinent Gondwana, which predated Pangea. The fish was dubbed Hyneria udlezinye by researchers, translating from IsiXhosa to “one who consumes others.”
“Until recently there was one mysterious exception, Hyneria lindae, from North America. The discovery of a closely related species Hyneria udlezinye from southern Gondwana strongly supports the idea that these giants all originated in Gondwana. It represents an important missing piece of the puzzle,” said researcher and paleontologist Rob Gess to Newsweek. The fish is believed to have been the number one predator in the region at the time it existed.
ARTICLE: LAURA SPIVAK
MANAGING EDITOR: LUKE MOCHERMAN
PHOTO CREDIT: INTERESTING ENGINEERING
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