Washington: Scientists have discovered fossilised remains of a large predatory fish with a fearsome mouth which they believe prowled North American waterways some 375 million years ago.
   
The lobe-finned fish, now called Laccognathus embryi, Probably grew to about five to six feet long and had a wide head with small eyes and robust jaws lined with large piercing teeth. The beast was likely a bottom-dweller, waiting on the seafloor to lunge at prey passing by, the researchers said.

"I wouldn't want to be wading or swimming in waters where this animal lurked," study researcher Edward Daeschler, of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, was quoted as saying by LiveScience.
   
The predatory fish likely preyed on armoured placoderms and lungfish, lead author Jason Downs, also of the Academy of Natural Sciences, said.
   
"Laccognathus embryi, with its powerful jaws and long, sharp teeth is certainly a predatory animal that is likely to have eaten the other aquatic vertebrates that lived in the same streams and rivers."

The fossil, believed to be about 375 milliony year old, was found on Ellesmere Island in the Nunavut Territory of Arctic Canada, though back then conditions would have been subtropical, the researchers said.

In the past, the researchers also discovered Tiktaalik roseae, a transitional animal considered a "missing link" between fish and the earliest limbed animals, side-by-side with L. embryi at the same site. That suggests the two lived side-by-side as well, the researchers believe.

"Both are predators, and there is certainly a possibility that they competed for prey," Downs said. "It is also possible that they lived at different depths or even employed different feeding strategies that would have enabled them to establish unique feeding niches in these environments."

The findings are published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.


(Agencies)