Giant bottom-dwelling fish fossils in northeast Texas

DALLAS (SMU) – SMU paleontologists have helped in the analysis of fossils from an ancient fish found in Texas.


Isolated bones from a fish called a mawsoniid coelacanth were found in the Cenomanian Woodbine Formation in northeast Texas. Collector and Texan Bradley Carter, who made the discovery, donated the bones to SMU's Shuler Museum of Paleontology to have them examined. 


Coelacanths are giant, bottom-dwelling fish whose ancient lineage stretches back more than 360 million years. The bones found in Texas are believed to be about 98 million years old, making them the youngest coelacanth fossils to ever be located there.


Until less than 100 years ago, the distinctive group of fish called coelacanths were once thought to have gone extinct with the dinosaurs. However, living members were discovered in deep water in the 1930’s,” said Dale Winkler, a research professor at SMU in the Huffington Department of Earth Sciences. “Reported here are new fossil specimens from Texas, discovered by a talented local fossil enthusiast, that are important because they are from a group of large bodied coelacanths known mainly from South America and Africa, and have never before been found in the Cretaceous of North America.” 


A study on the findings was published in PLOS ONE.  


Lead author of the study is Lionel Cavin, a paleontologist and curator at the Natural History Museum of Geneva in Switzerland. Study co-authors include Pablo Toriño, Paleontologist and Museologist working at Universidad de la República; Nathan Van Vranken, with the STEM Division from Potomac State College; Bradley Carter, Independent Researcher, Michael J. Polcyn, research associate and director of SMU's Digital Earth Sciences Laboratory; and Winkler, who was managing author and is also the director of Shuler Museum of Paleontology. 


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