Researchers discover a colossal new predator, which some 360 million years ago stalked its prey in what is now South Africa.
Named Hyneria udlezinye or “one who eats othersin Xhosa, -one of the eleven official languages of South Africa-, the new species of fish, measured about 3 meters long and was considered the largest prehistoric bony fish never discovered in the South African region.
With its mighty fangs it hunted all kinds of animals, including the first tetrapods, a group of four-limbed vertebrates that would eventually evolve into mammals, and at the same time ancestral group that gave rise to the human lineageamong others.
This deadly fish belonged to an extinct group of lobe-finned fish called tristichopteridae (Tristichopteridae), which inhabited during the period Upper DevonianBefore the dinosaurs.
“Imagine a huge predatory fish, easily over 2 meters long and resembling a modern alligator, but with a shorter face, like the front of a torpedo.” explain By E. Ahlbergco-author of the study and professor at the Department of Organismal Biology at Uppsala University (Sweden).
Left: Illustration of Hyneria udlezinye. Right: Hyneria scale fossil discovered in South Africa. Credit: Gess/ Ahlberg.
Where did they find the remains of this giant fish?
Hyneria udlezinye inhabited the river waters of former southern supercontinent of Gondwananow known as Africa, South America, Antarctica, India, Madagascar and Australia.
However, the researchers indicated that a much wider presence of this fish is documented, which could have lived even in the polar circle.
The first discoveries linked to this gigantic species of killer fish were made in 1995, when fossilized scales were found in an excavation at Waterloo Farm South African town near Makhanda.
Recently, researchers finally assembled a skeleton of the newly discovered species of this ancient fish, allowing scientists to make a full-body reconstruction.
Specimen scapula. Credit: Steven Lang.
The fossil of this new species is kept at the Albany Museum. It is composed of dermal bones and skeletal parts and paired fins. Robert W.Gessco-author of the study and paleontologist and associate researcher at the Museum, explained that the arrangement of the fins, mainly towards the rear of the bodyare an ecological feature of hiding predators, which with sudden rapid movements could surprise their prey.
“Hyneria would hide in the darkness and wait for something to happen,” Gess said.
Plate containing a fragment of the membrane of the fin of the fish. Credit: Gess, Ahlberg / PLOS One / CC BY 4.0.
This giant bony fish disappeared with the Devonian mass extinctionwhich wiped out about 80% of the species.
The research was published in the journal PLOS ONE.
References: Live Science / Science Plus.
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