Nav: Home

Fossil fish gives new insights into the evolution

October 02, 2019

An international research team led by Giuseppe Marramà from the Institute of Paleontology of the University of Vienna discovered a new and well-preserved fossil stingray with an exceptional anatomy, which greatly differs from living species. The find provides new insights into the evolution of these animals and sheds light on the recovery of marine ecosystems after the mass extinction occurred 66 million years ago. The study was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Stingrays (Myliobatiformes) are a very diverse group of cartilaginous fishes which are known for their venomous and serrated tail stings, which they use against other predatory fish, and occasionally against humans. These rays have a rounded or wing-like pectoral disc and a long, whip-like tail that carries one or more serrated and venomous stings. The stingrays include the biggest rays of the world like the gigantic manta rays, which can reach a "wingspan" of up to seven meters and a weight of about three tons.

Fossil remains of stingrays are very common, especially their isolated teeth. Complete skeletons, however, exist only from a few extinct species coming from particular fossiliferous sites. Among these, Monte Bolca, in northeastern Italy, is one of the best known. So far, more than 230 species of fishes have been discovered that document a tropical marine coastal environment associated with coral reefs which dates back to about 50 million years ago in the period called Eocene.

This new fossil stingray has a flattened body and a pectoral disc ovoid in shape. What is striking is the absence of sting and the extremely short tail, which is not long as in the other stingrays, and does not protrude posteriorly to the disc. This body plan is not known in any other fossil or living stingray. Since this animal is unique and peculiar, the researchers named the new stingray Lessiniabatis aenigmatica, which means "bizarre ray from Lessinia" (the Italian area where Bolca is located).

More than 70 percent of the organisms, such as dinosaurs, marine reptiles, several mammal groups, numerous birds, fish and invertebrates, disappeared during the fifth largest extinction event in the Earth's history occurred about 66 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous. In marine environments, the time after this event is characterized by the emergence and diversification of new species and entire groups of bony and cartilaginous fishes (sharks and rays), which reoccupied the ecological niches left vacant by the extinction's victims. The new species experimented sometimes new body plans and new ecological strategies.

"From this perspective, the emergence of a new body plan in a 50-million-year-old stingray such as Lessiniabatis aenigmatica is particularly intriguing when viewed in the context of simultaneous, extensive diversification and emergence of new anatomical features within several fish groups, during the recovery of the life after the end-Cretaceous extinction event", states Giuseppe Marramà.
-end-
Publication in Scientific Reports: Marramà G., Carnevale G., Giusberti L., Naylor G., Kriwet J. 2019. A bizarre Eocene dasyatoid batomorph (Elasmobranchii, Myliobatiformes) from the Bolca Lagerstätte (Italy) reveals a new, extinct body plan for stingrays. Scientific Reports. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-50544-y

University of Vienna

Related Fossil Articles:

New fossil ape is discovered in India
A 13-million-year-old fossil unearthed in northern India comes from a newly discovered ape, the earliest known ancestor of the modern-day gibbon.
Fossil growth reveals insights into the climate
Panthasaurus maleriensis is an ancestor of today's amphibians and has been considered the most puzzling representative of the Metoposauridae.
Australian fossil reveals new plant species
Fresh examination of an Australian fossil -- believed to be among the earliest plants on Earth -- has revealed evidence of a new plant species that existed in Australia more than 359 Million years ago.
Tracking fossil fuel emissions with carbon-14
Researchers from NOAA and the University of Colorado have devised a breakthrough method for estimating national emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels using ambient air samples and a well-known isotope of carbon that scientists have relied on for decades to date archaeological sites.
Rare lizard fossil preserved in amber
The tiny forefoot of a lizard of the genus Anolis was trapped in amber about 15 to 20 million years ago.
Reconstructing the diet of fossil vertebrates
Paleodietary studies of the fossil record are impeded by a lack of reliable and unequivocal tracers.
Fossil is the oldest-known scorpion
Scientists studying fossils collected 35 years ago have identified them as the oldest-known scorpion species, a prehistoric animal from about 437 million years ago.
Fossil fish gives new insights into the evolution
An international research team led by Giuseppe Marramà from the Institute of Paleontology of the University of Vienna discovered a new and well-preserved fossil stingray with an exceptional anatomy, which greatly differs from living species.
What color were fossil animals?
Dr. Michael Pittman of the Vertebrate Palaeontology Laboratory, Department of Earth Sciences, The University of Hong Kong led an international study with his PhD student Mr.
Fossil deposit is much richer than expected
Near the Dutch town of Winterswijk is an Eldorado for fossil lovers.
More Fossil News and Fossil Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: IRL Online
Original broadcast date: March 20, 2020. Our online lives are now entirely interwoven with our real lives. But the laws that govern real life don't apply online. This hour, TED speakers explore rules to navigate this vast virtual space.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#574 State of the Heart
This week we focus on heart disease, heart failure, what blood pressure is and why it's bad when it's high. Host Rachelle Saunders talks with physician, clinical researcher, and writer Haider Warraich about his book "State of the Heart: Exploring the History, Science, and Future of Cardiac Disease" and the ails of our hearts.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Falling
There are so many ways to fall–in love, asleep, even flat on your face. This hour, Radiolab dives into stories of great falls.  We jump into a black hole, take a trip over Niagara Falls, upend some myths about falling cats, and plunge into our favorite songs about falling. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.