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150-Million-Year-Old Piranha-Like Fish Specimen Found In Germany Is Earliest Known Flesh-Eating Fish

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Researchers believe that the pointed teeth on the fossilized remains of a fish species shows that it used them to bite off chunks of its prey’s meat or fins. It lived in the sea about 150 million years ago, making it the oldest known flesh-eating ray-finned fish.

Serrated Teeth For Biting

Researchers of a new study analyze their discovery of the oldest known flesh-eating ray-finned fish that lived in the sea at the time of the dinosaurs. The fossilized remains of the fish were found in limestone deposits in South Germany and were discovered to have long, pointed teeth, as well as triangular teeth with serrated edges on the side of the lower jaw bone.

According to the international team of researchers, the characteristics of the ancient sea creature’s teeth suggest that it may have had a feeding style that is similar to that of modern-day piranhas, which are known to have incredibly sharp teeth for biting chunks off of their prey.

Predator And Prey

Amazingly, the same limestone deposit appeared to have, not just the predator but also the prey, as it also contained the fossilized remains of other fish that appears to have had their fins nibbled or bitten. This runs similar to the feeding patterns of modern day piranhas that bite off chunks of their preys’ fins so that they can feed on it again when it regrows.

“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,” explains David Bellwood of James Cook University in Australia, co-author of the study published in the journal Current Biology.

Evolutionary Versatility

What’s even more interesting about this find is that it was from the Jurassic era and that it was from the sea. At the time, bony fishes, while known to have crushing teeth, were not known to bite off the flesh of other fishes. Instead, they either ate invertebrates or swallowed their prey whole. The biting strategy was believed to have come much later.

However, a sea predator that did bite off chunks of their prey at the time were the prehistoric sharks. The new find suggests that these piranha-like fish engages in aggressive mimicry that incredibly parallels the feeding patterns of modern day piranhas which live in fresh water.

“it is the oldest known flesh-eating actinopterygian, revealing remarkable convergent evolution with modern piranhas,” the researchers note.

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