Oct 20, 2016 I Brett Tingley

T. Rex, Meet B. Rex, The Prehistoric Armored Monster Fish

While oceans on other planets and moons keep getting the attention of scientists and astronomers, the depths of the Earth’s oceans represent some of the most mysterious places on Earth. Some current estimates claim that up to 99% of the world’s oceans remain unexplored. While exploring some of those subaquatic mysteries, a team of multi-university researchers discovered a set of unexplained new fossils on Ellesmere Island in Nunavut, Canada that has the potential to rewrite sections of ichthyological history.

Several fragments of Bothriolepis rex's bony armored plates.

The fossil fragments appeared to be from an unknown massive bony fish. Because they did not match any other existing fossil record, the researchers believe they represent a whole new species of prehistoric monster fish: Bothriolepis rex. B. rex measures in at 1.7 meters, or 5.5 feet long and is believed to have been a bottom feeder based on the orientation of its downward-facing mouth. Researchers currently speculate that the bony, armored plates of B. rex served as a defense against bites from larger carnivorous fish.

A replica of a specimen of prehistoric bony fish from the genus Bothriolepis.

The team has published their findings in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. Based on their analysis of the fossils, researchers believe the densely-armored fish will rewrite some of the current taxonomic records for these types of bony fish:

Bothriolepis rex is additionally remarkable for the thickness and compactness of its dermal skeletal plates [...] and gives occasion to a physical and ecological review of dermal skeletal mass and density in large-bodied, bottom-dwelling organisms in nonmarine ecosystems during the Late Devonian.

According to one of the researchers, Jason Downs of  Delaware Valley University, this new monster fish suggests there are still many unanswered questions surrounding Antiarchi, a group of prehistoric armored fish known from fossil records:

Bothriolepis rex extends the range of known body sizes for the group Antiarchi. The large body size and the thick, dense armor present a unique opportunity to address questions about the lifestyle of this unusual group of armored swimmers.

The similarity ofT. rex and B. rex lie in their names only; while B. rex sports a set of powerful armor, the fish possessed very little capacity for causing damage itself. However, the fact that such a large fish possessed an armored shell could imply the existence of more fearsome unknown sea monsters.

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician living in the ancient Appalachian mountains.

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