I’m going to level with you guys. I like going to the beach, but what lies beneath scares the hell out of me. You ever see those insane whale shark videos on YouTube?
I know they feed on plankton, but you couldn’t get pay me to jump in there with it.
Researchers discovered new fossils belonging to a ‘big-mouthed’ fish from the Cretaceous Period. I’m just glad it’s long extinct. Meet a new species of Rhinconichthys.
Credit: Robert Nicholls
I know it’s just an artist interpretation, but that is one sketchy looking fish.
Rhinconichthys are rare. Before this most recent research, only one species of this type of fish was known. A new skull from North America and a careful re-examination of another from Japan brings the number of species in the genus to three. Plus, it highlights how widespread the fish was millions of years ago.
“Based on our new study, we now have three different species of Rhinconichthys from three separate regions of the globe, each represented by a single skull,” said Shimada. “This tells just how little we still know about the biodiversity of organisms throughout the Earth’s history. It’s really mindboggling.”
What researchers know about the fish
Let’s talk about the fish’s weird mouth. Specialized jaws were crucial for it to grab as much plankton as possible from the water.
From the press release:
One pair of bones called hyomandibulae formed a massive oar-shaped lever to protrude and swing the jaws open extra wide, like a parachute, in order to receive more plankton-rich water into its mouth, similar to the way many sharks open their mouth.
Credit: Kenshu Shimada
This type of feeding, also known as suspension-feeding, is seen today from Blue Whales, Manta Rays and Whale Sharks. In fact, Rhinconichthys means a fish like the Whale Shark (Rhincodon).
The good news? This species only measured about 6.5 feet long. In a time where everything was overgrown, I’ll take that as a win.
“I was in a team that named Rhinconichtys in 2010, which was based on a single species from England, but we had no idea back then that the genus was so diverse and so globally distributed,” said Shimada.
The exact names for each new species are R. purgatoirensis (North America skull) and R. uyenoi (Japan skull).