Two families visiting a free fossil-finding site in northwestern Queensland, Australia while on vacation have discovered “extremely rare” fossils belonging to a swordfish-like creature which lived approximately 100 million years ago, various media outlets reported this week.
According to the North Queensland Register, the complete snout of the creature identified as a Australopachycormus hurleyi, a nearly 10 foot (3 meter) long ray-finned fish, was discovered at the hunting ground by the Johnston family. Then, one week later, another family discovered the complete skull, teeth, vertebrae, and front fins of the creature at the same location.
“At first we thought [the snout] was a tooth from some giant reptile, since it was so large and cone shaped,” Mirjam Johnston told the newspaper. “It wasn’t until… we showed the bone to a fossil enthusiast at our camp site that we realized it was the tip of a very pointy fish nose.”
“I wasn’t expecting to find something so complete. I remember pulling up the layers of rock and realizing there was bone poking out everywhere,” added Tony Amos, who discovered the rest of the creature’s remains along with his wife, Gail. The Amos family got in contact with officials at Kronosaurus Korner, a local fossil museum that helped identify the specimen.
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Dr. Patrick Smith of Kronosaurus Korner told BBC News that Australopachycormus hurleyi was “a high-tier carnivore” that “ate other large fast-moving fish, a bit like marlin do today… Because it does fit that swordfish-like shape we know he probably lived in that same ecological niche.”
He told the Register that the creature likely used its pointed snout to slash or stun the fish that it hunted, and that despite its similarity in appearance to swordfish, it was actually a member of an extinct genus of ray-finned, Jurassic-period fish known as a pachycormid. The fossils, which are now on display at the museum, as “special” because they are “so complete,” he added.
“Fossils of Australopachycormus are exceptionally rare, which is demonstrated by the fact that the species was only discovered less than a decade ago,” Dr. Smith told ABC News. “Previous to this find we had no near-complete remains of the animal in our museum,” he noted, emphasizing that without the help of the two families which found the fossils, “specimen such as this… could easily [have] been lost or destroyed.”
In light of that fact, the Kronosaurus Korner curator encouraged other citizen paleontologists to visit the fossil-hunting site where the remains were unearthed, which is located about 1,000 miles (1,700 kilometers) from Brisbane, north of Richmond, Queensland. The region, which has been called Australia’s Dinosaur Trail, has been home to fossil discoveries for more than 80 years, he told BBC News.
Image credit: Kronosaurus Korner
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