Saturday, 2 March 2013

Spiral-toothed fossil mystery solved

By Ella Davies,  Reporter, BBC Nature

An ancient spiral-toothed fish has been reconstructed from fossil evidence by scientists.
US researchers used CT scans to build a computer model of what Helicoprion looked like and how it ate.

They were also able to resolve a continuing puzzle over whether the unique saw-like spirals were located inside or outside the mouth.

The findings show the animals were more closely related to modern chimaeras, or ratfish, than sharks.

The study is published by researchers from Idaho State University in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

The university's Museum of Natural History has the largest public collection of fossilised Helicoprion in the world.

The fish lived 270 million years ago but because they were largely formed from cartilage, which does not preserve well, their fossil record comprises unusual spiral structures.
Referred to as "whorls", these features have been compared to spiralling saw blades and have puzzled the scientific community for over a century.

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