In Saurichthys curionii, an early ray-finned fish, the vertebral arches of the axial skeleton doubled, resulting in the elongation of its body and giving it a needlefish-like appearance. The 240-million-year-old fossil find from Switzerland also revealed that this primitive fish was not as flexible as today’s eels, nor could it swim as fast or untiringly as a tuna.
The 240-million-year-old fossil find from Switzerland also revealed that this primitive fish was not as flexible as today’s eels, nor could it swim as fast or untiringly as a tuna.
Snake and eel bodies are elongated, slender and flexible in all three dimensions. This striking body plan has evolved many times independently in the more than 500 million years of vertebrate animals history. Based on the current state of knowledge, the extreme elongation of the body axis occurred in one of two ways: either through the elongation of the individual vertebrae of the vertebral column, which thus became longer, or through the development of additional vertebrae and associated muscle segments.Long body thanks to doubling of the vertebral arches
The fossils studied come from the Monte San Giorgio find in Ticino, which was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2003. The researchers owe their findings to the fortunate circumstance that not only skeletal parts but also the tendons and tendon attachments surrounding the muscles of the primitive predatory fish had survived intact. Due to the shape and arrangement of the preserved tendons, the scientists are also able to draw conclusions as to the flexibility and swimming ability of the fossilized fish genus. According to Maxwell, Saurichthys curionii was certainly not as flexible as today’s eels and, unlike modern oceanic fishes such as tuna, was probably unable to swim for long distances at high speed. Based upon its appearance and lifestyle, the roughly half-meter-long fish is most comparable to the garfish or needlefish that exist today.Literature:
Nathalie Huber | Universität Zürich
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