An extinct species has just seen an expansion of its kind, as fossils unveil new species of big mouthed fish that lived millions of years again in the Cretaceous Period.
- The cranium was found to be 92 million years old
- The first kind of Rhinconichthys was found in 2010 in England
- The newest discovery, R. purgatoirensis, was found in Colorado
- There are only three known species of the genus in the world
Researchers from Colorado discovered the cranium of an extinct species of fish, with a frighteningly wide opening of its mouth that fed on plankton. According to their findings, the species roamed the waters around 92 million years ago. That means it was a contemporary of several known species of dinosaurs, and there is more than just one of its kind.
A previous discovery a few years back found a thought-to-be unique species in England. It was named Rhinconichthys, which defined the entire genus at the time. However, the new discovery in the United States along with the re-examination of an old cranium in Japan just tripled the number of known species. The two new discoveries outside England were called Rhinconichthys purgatoirensis (R. purgatoirensis) and Rhinconichthys uyenoi (R. uyenoi) respectively.
Kenshu Shimada, a paleobiologist from the DePaul University, stated that he was in the team that first named the species back in 2010 in England. However, they never imagined that the genus was so diverse. In fact, they never expected it to be so globally dispersed, so far found in three different parts of the world: England, Japan, and the United States. In just 5 years, scientists have added two new species to the previously sole kind of Rhinconichthys.
The species was believed to living within the waters, reaching lengths of 6.5 feet and had a high specialization for bony fish. It fed mostly in plankton-rich waters, similar to a few other species that exist in today’s waters. This includes the elusive Blue Whale, Manta Ray, and the Whale Shark.
However, it was its mouth that posed as a source of fascination for paleontologists and paleobiologists. Rhinconichthys had a massive pair of bones in the shape of an oar that worked as a lever, which helped swing its mouth open to incredible widths. This was similar to the size of a parachute, gulping on everything in the way. It’s an exceptional strategy that is known only due to its species. However, today’s sharks have a similar wide opening, though not quite to the same frightening extent.
According to Shimada, the new discovery tells us exactly how little we still know about the diversity of species on our own planet. It’s “mindboggling” of how many creatures roamed Earth, and how little knowledge we still have of their existence. More and more are found each year, and it’s believed we are nowhere near to pulling the curtain covering a half of them. We never might.
Image source: wired.com