Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

An ancient killer coelacanth from Canada

Date:
May 2, 2012
Source:
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
Summary:
Coelacanths are iconic fishes, well-known as ‘living fossils.’ A new extinct coelacanth is causing waves in the scientific community because it had a tuna-like forked tail and was probably a fast-moving, shark-like predator. This contrasts with living coelacanths, which are slow-moving fishes with peculiar broad tails bearing 3 lobes.

The skeleton of the stiff, forked tail of Rebellatrix that indicates its active, high-speed, predatory lifestyle. Specimen in the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology.
Credit: Photo by Andrew Wendruff and Mark Wilson

Coelacanths are iconic fishes, well-known as 'living fossils.' The group was thought to have died out with the dinosaurs until a living one was caught in 1938 off the coast of South Africa, sending shock waves through the scientific world. More than 70 years later, a new extinct coelacanth is causing more waves in the scientific community because it had a tuna-like forked tail and was probably a fast-moving, shark-like predator. This contrasts with living coelacanths, which are slow-moving fishes with peculiar broad tails bearing 3 lobes.

Related Articles


The most complete fossils of this stunning 240 million-year-old species were found by collectors from the Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre in Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia, and are described by two University of Alberta scientists in the most recent issue of Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

The new form, named Rebellatrix, meaning the 'rebel coelacanth' was a 3-foot long fish with a massive symmetrical forked tail quite unlike the tails of any other living or fossil coelacanths. The structure of this new fish is so unusual that it has been put in its own family. The fossils were discovered on rocky slopes in the Hart Ranges of Wapiti Lake Provincial Park, British Columbia, which at the time the fish was alive was off the western coast of the supercontinent Pangaea.

Rebellatrix represents the first major change in body shape for the coelacanth group in more than 70 million years. The reason for its unusual shape comes down to two possibilities, says lead author Andrew Wendruff from the University of Alberta. Either the fossil record of coelacanths is vastly undiscovered and there are others like it yet to be found, or this was a specific response following Earth's greatest mass-extinction event at the end of the Permian (250 million years ago), as coelacanths evolved to fill a vacant niche unoccupied by other predatory fishes.

Dr. Mark Wilson, co-author of the study, noted that both the shape and the stiffness of the tail fin are unique amongst coelacanths. Similar tail fins occur today in fast swimming predatory fishes such as tuna or barracuda, strongly suggesting that Rebellatrix was an active predator capable of fast bursts of swimming and high-speed cruising to search for and catch other fishes living in the ancient sea.

"This is an amazing discovery which overturns the age old image of coelacanths as slow moving fishes and shows the resilience of the group to come back in true fighting form after surviving the world's most devastating mass extinction event," says Dr. John Long of the Natural History Museum of LA County, an expert in fossil fishes who was not involved in the study.

Coelacanths are lobe-finned fishes (technically termed sarcopterygians) that straddle the evolutionary boundary between most bony fishes and four-legged land animals (tetrapods). This is based on many characteristics shared by the two groups, such as thick robust limbs, specialised skull features, and a hinged braincase. Coelacanths reached their evolutionary peak back in the age of dinosaurs, but since then are known from just two living forms.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Wendruff, A. and M.V.H. Wilson. A fork-tailed coelacanth, Rebellatrix divaricerca, gen. et sp. nov. (Actinistia: Rebellatricidae, fam. nov.), from the Lower Triassic of western Canada.. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 2012 (32)3: pp. 499-511.

Cite This Page:

Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. "An ancient killer coelacanth from Canada." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120502162441.htm>.
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. (2012, May 2). An ancient killer coelacanth from Canada. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120502162441.htm
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. "An ancient killer coelacanth from Canada." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120502162441.htm (accessed April 19, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Un-Bee-Lievable: Bees on the Loose After Washington Truck Crash

Un-Bee-Lievable: Bees on the Loose After Washington Truck Crash

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 17, 2015) A truck carrying honey bees overturns near Lynnwood, Washington, spreading boxes of live bees across the highway. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Our Love Of Puppy Dog Eyes Explained By Science

Our Love Of Puppy Dog Eyes Explained By Science

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2015) Researchers found a spike in oxytocin occurs in both humans and dogs when they gaze into each other&apos;s eyes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dog Flu Spreading in Midwestern States

Dog Flu Spreading in Midwestern States

AP (Apr. 17, 2015) Dog flu is spreading in several Midwestern states. Dog daycare centers and veterinary offices are taking precautions. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Rare Whale Spotted in Gulf of Mexico

Raw: Rare Whale Spotted in Gulf of Mexico

AP (Apr. 17, 2015) Researchers from the E/V Nautilus had quite a surprise Tuesday, when a curious sperm whale swam around their remotely operated vehicle in the Gulf of Mexico. Cameras captured the encounter. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

More Coverage


Old Fish Makes New Splash: Coelacanth Find Rewrites History of the Ancient Fish

May 2, 2012 Coelacanths, an ancient group of fishes once thought to be long extinct, made headlines in 1938 when one of their modern relatives was caught off the coast of South Africa. Now coelacanths are making ... read more

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins