In this episode we discuss an interesting and important group of ancient armored fish; Placoderms! We discuss some of their wide variety, their evolutionary significance, and focus a bit on their biggest and most famous member: Dunkleosteus.
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Bonus: Humans in North America 100,000+ years ago? The debate continues! [Here‘s a description one of the authors shared on our Facebook page]
Placoderms swam the world’s oceans and freshwater habitats from the Silurian to the end of the Devonian (430-360 mya). They dominated the seas as some of the largest predators of the day, while many also prowled the depths as bottom-dwelling ambush predators. They exhibited a huge variety of body designs and adapted to almost every aquatic environment of that time. Their impressive success ended at the Devonian/Carboniferous extinction event.
Dunkleosteus was one of the largest species of placoderm and also one of the largest predators of the Devonian, growing to the size of modern Great White Sharks (6 m). It’s become famous for its impressive set of jaws that also sported an equally impressive bite. The bite force of a full grown Dunkleosteus is estimated between 4400 N and 7400 N. This is one of the strongest bites among all fish, both living and extinct. It even rivals the modern record holders, the crocodilians.
Placoderms were also incredibly important to the evolutionary history of jawed vertebrates (gnathostomes). If you’d like to learn more, check out the links below:
Some fishy links…
– Earth Touch: The nasty eating habits of prehistory’s meanest fish
– The Conversation: The first vertebrate sexual organs evolved as an extra pair of legs
– LiveScience: Evolution’s Bite: Ancient Armored Fish Was Toothy, Too
– Ecomorphological inferences in early vertebrates: reconstructing Dunkleosteus terrelli (Arthrodira, Placodermi) caudal fin from palaeoecological data(check this one out to see an alternative reconstruction of the tail of Dunkleosteus based on recent research)