So much has happened in the billions of years during which our planet was here that we’re merely a single minute throughout the blue planet’s lifespan. This is rarely more obvious than when we find out something new about what happened here before us. According to an international team of researchers, fossils of huge mouthed plankton eating Cretaceous fish discovered.
The 92 million year old Rhinconichthys
Belonging to an extinct group of fish called pachycormids, which contains the biggest bony fish to have ever lived, Rhinconichthys is quite an impressive specimen. With its average length of over 6.5 feet, the huge animal fed on plankton, making it pretty much a harmless giant in an ocean filled with gigantic killers.
In order to sustain its pretty much plankton exclusive diet, Rhinconichthys had a very strange and interesting special built in ability. A special pair of bones called the hyomandibulae is what helped the huge ancient fish get enough sustenance, by opening its mouth very wide.
The hyomandibulae formed a sort of oar shaped lever inside the fish, swinging the animal’s jaws open extra wide, pretty much like a parachute, allowing more water and plankton to flow into the creature’s huge mouth.
The Rhinconichthys shared its dietary habits with other modern day sea creatures, such as the Manta Ray, the Blue Whale, or even the Whale Shark, after which it was even named. This type of feeding hasn’t really been encountertd before in the dinosaur era, suspension feeding being a more modern evolution trait.
The team and previous findings
Actually, there was only one other Rhinconichthys skeleton encountered before this discovery, driving the scientific world to believe that the animals were very rare, and not too widespread. With the new discovery finding two more specimens in totally different places, more data is about to be uncovered.
The previously encountered fossil was a skull found in England in 2010. This obviously suggested the idea that the animal wasn’t really that common, and that it had a small scale distribution. However, with the new fossils found in North America and Japan, the animal didn’t only increase its spread, but also its species diversity.
By discovering the new Rhinconichthys purgatoirensis and Rhinconichthys uyenoi, the international team from the United Sates Forest Service, the National Museum of Scotland, the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center, and from the DePaul University have pretty much made history.
The study is going to appear in the next edition of the international scientific journal Cretaceous Research.
Image source: Geograph.org.uk