Discovery of huge fossilized predator fish shows prehistoric Canada dangerous place

Steve Mertl
Daily Brew
September 13, 2011

You can rely on Postmedia News reporter Randy Boswell to come up with interesting and unusual stories and his report on the discovery of a new prehistoric predator in Canada's Arctic is no exception.

U.S. scientists working on Ellesmere Island have discovered the fossilized remains of a fish they've named Laccognathus embryi, which vaguely resembles the modern-day lungfish and even alligators.

The fish's remains were found encased in rock on southern Ellesmere Island, Boswell reports. Two metres long, this fresh-water bottom-dweller had big piercing teeth and is thought to have lived 375 million years ago.

The new fossil was found in the same area that produced the famed "walking fish," dubbed Tiktaalik, in 2004. Tiktaalik, which some consider the missing link between animals that lived exclusively in the water and those that began moving onto dry land, may have been prey for Laccognathus, scientists speculate.

The American team says the predator's name is a tribute to Ashton Embry of the Geological Survey of Canada, whose work on Ellesmere Island's rock layers paved the way for the discovery.

"I wouldn't want to be wading or swimming in waters where this animal lurked," said Ted Daeschler, a paleontologist with the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. "Clearly these Late Devonian ecosystems were vicious places, and Laccognathus filled the niche of a large, bottom-dwelling, sit-and-wait predator with a powerful bite."

Daeschler said this particular fossilized fish, and the Tiktaalik found in 2004, probably died when a flooding river spilled its banks, leaving hundreds of fish stranded in mud that later solidified into rock.

At the time, Earth's continents were drawing together into a single, large land mass known as Pangea, with much of what is now Canada sitting just north of the equator and featuring a warm, humid climate.

(AFP Photo)