Scientists Unearth Giant Fish That Likely Ate Our Human Ancestors

[Not the fish mentioned in the story] Shutterstock/tristichopterids

Kay Smythe News and Commentary Writer
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A study published Wednesday introduced us to a new species of giant fish that may have eaten our human ancestors.

The study, published in PLOS One, describes a 350-million-year-old enormous fish that reigned in our oceans long before the dinosaurs. The creature has distinct, deadly fangs that allowed it to hunt in river waterways in the ancient supercontinent Gondwana. Its remains were found in a fossil assemblage near Makhanda/Grahamstown, South Africa.

At up to 9-feet in length, it is the largest boney fish on record from the time period (Late Devonian) and is regarded as predatory. These features and behaviors prompted researchers to name it Hyneria udlezinye, or “one who eats others.”

“Picture a huge predatory fish, easily topping 2 meters [6.5 feet] in length and looking somewhat like a modern alligator gar but with a shorter face like the front end of a torpedo,” study co-author Per Ahlberg told Live Science. “The mouth contained rows of small teeth, but also pairs of large fangs which could probably reach 5 centimeters [2 inches] in the largest individuals.”

The first clues of the fish’s existence were uncovered in 1995, but it took until Wednesday for the full picture to come together and the study to be published. “It’s been a long journey ever since then, assembling the answer to where these scales came from,” another co-author, Robert Gess, stated.

It’s assumed that the fish likely preyed upon four-legged creatures known as tetrapods, the ancestral beings that led to the human race. “The tristichopterids evolved into monsters that, in all likelihood, ate [our ancestors],” Ahlberg noted. (RELATED: NOAA Verifies Cataclysmic Flooding Events)

As most tristichopterids, like the giant fish, have been found in Australia, the discovery suggests we need to rethink the dispersion of animals throughout our planet and throughout history. The species disappeared during a mass extinction event roughly 359 million years ago, and have no direct descendants living in modern times (that we know of). It’s unclear what caused this mass extinction, but it is one of many throughout history, Live Science noted.