150-Million-Year-Old Piranha Is The Oldest Known Flesh-eating Fish

Posted: Oct 21 2018, 6:03am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 21 2018, 6:07am CDT, in Latest Science News


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150-Million-Year-Old Piranha is the Oldest Known Flesh-eating Fish
Credit: M. Ebert and T. Nohl

The fish with piranha-like teeth lived in Jurassic period.

The oldest example of flesh-eating fish has been identified. An ancient bony fish that lived about 150 million years ago had distinctive sharp teeth like modern-day piranha. The teeth were capable of ripping the flesh off the bones of its prey. Researchers have also found badly damaged bodies of its victims in the same limestone deposits in South Germany where this piranha-like creature was recovered. It is the oldest fossil of flesh-eating fish yet found.

“We have other fish from the same locality with chunks missing from their fins,” said David Bellwood of James Cook University, Australia. “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.”

The fish, Piranhamesodon pinnatomus, was originally discovered in 2016. It was buried in the same deposit that yielded fossils of Archaeopteryx, a kind of dinosaur that has long retained the first-known-bird image. The bony fish is now part of the world famous collections in the Jura-Museum in Eichstätt.

An analysis of specimen's well-preserved jaws shows that it had long, razor-sharp teeth on the exterior of the bone forming the roof of the mouth.The teeth were triangular, like the blade on saw. They looked quite similar to those of modern piranha that can bite off both flesh and fin.

“We were stunned that this fish had piranha-like teeth. It comes from a group of fishes (the pycnodontids) that are famous for their crushing teeth. But what was even more remarkable is that it was from the Jurassic. Fish as we know them, bony fishes, just did not bite flesh of other fishes at that time,” said Martina Kölbl-Ebert of Jura-Museum Eichstätt. “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.”

Today’s piranhas live in freshwater but the newly discovered fish swam the oceans and existed in the late Jurassic when dinosaurs were roaming the Earth.

“The new finding represents the earliest record of a bony fish that bit bites off other fishes and what’s more it was doing it in the sea,” said Bellwood. “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.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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