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Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Prehistoric Fish Tale?

The fossils tell the story!
Fossil remains of an ancient fish, related to the modern Herring, excavated in Bavaria show it in the act of snaring its prey and paying with its own life! Apparently the 25 inch long fish caught the flying Pterosaur in mid air before choking on its wing membrane and suffocating. The Pterosaur, which has a wingspan of around 27 inches, even had a smaller fish lodged in its throat!

"The Aspidorhynchus apparently attacked from in front when the Rhamphorhynchus still flew low above water surface [it presumably hunted by skimming for fish, like sea eagles do], grabbed the left wing level with the distal end of the antebrachium close to the carpus and pulled the Pterosaur under water. While the Rhamphorhynchus rapidly drowned with its last prey in the throat the cause of death of the Aspidorhynchus remains speculative. Evidently, the fish could not swallow the Pterosaur due to its size and bulky skeleton. Furthermore, ganoid fishes like Aspidorhynchus have skulls with limited kinetic options such that they were not suitable to manipulate prey that exceeded the standard gape of the jaws. Obviously, the fish was neither able to swallow the Pterosaur, neither was it able to get rid of its oversized victim. Possibly the aktinofibrils of the tough and leathery wing membrane of the Pterosaur got jammed between the densely packed teeth of the fish. Like most extant fish Aspidorhynchus had no other possibility to get rid of its unwanted victim than trying to shake it loose or swimming rapid spinning or twisting manoeuvres. That the fish in fact tried to get rid of the Pterosaur by vigorous movements of its head is evidenced by the distortion of the left wing finger elements, while the remaining skeleton of the Rhamphorhynchus lies in natural articulation. Apparently, the flight membrane tissue remained jammed between the teeth, while the interphalangeal ligaments of the left wing finger ruptured under the power of the fish tearing at the flight membrane. Finally, the entire wing finger of the drowned Pterosaur was pulled under the antebrachium. Such a distortion can only happen when the proximal part of the flight membrane, likely the thin and structurally weak tenopatagium, was dramatically overextended or even had ruptured. The most likely scenario is that the Aspidorhynchus fought its victim for a period of time, thereby rapidly sinking into the hostile anoxic water layer of the Late Jurassic Eichstätt basin, where it was instantly suffocated. Still linked together, both carcasses sank to the sea floor, whereby the Pterosaur contacted the ground first, likely being pushed down by the massive head of the Aspidorhynchus."

Possibly a bit like a prehistoric version of this?
A modern version of events?
Read more here.

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