Monday, 14 May 2018

25 years of fossil collecting yields clearest picture of extinct 12-foot aquatic predator



May 7, 2018 by Frank Otto, Drexel University

After 25 years of collecting fossils at a Pennsylvania site, scientists at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University now have a much better picture of an ancient, extinct 12-foot fish and the world in which it lived.

Although Hyneria lindae was initially described in 1968, it was done without a lot of fossil material to go on. But since the mid-1990s, dedicated volunteers, students, and paleontologists digging at the Red Hill site in northern Pennsylvania's Clinton County have turned up more - and better quality - fossils of the fish's skeleton that have led to new insights.

Academy researchers Ted Daeschler, PhD, and Jason Downs, PhD, who specialize in the Devonian time period (a time before dinosaurs and even land animals) when Hyneria lived, have been able to reconstruct that the predator had a blunt, wide snout, reached 10-12 feet in length, had small eyes and featured a sensory system that allowed it to hunt prey by feeling pressure waves around it.

"Dr. Keith Thomson, the man who first described Hyneria in 1968, did not have enough fossil material to reconstruct the anatomy that we have now been able to document with more extensive collections," explained Daeschler, curator of Vertebrate Zoology at the Academy, as well as a professor in Drexel's College of Arts and Sciences.

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