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Amazing Discovery: Scientists Identify New Species of Extinct Armored Fish

Oct 12, 2016 05:46 AM EDT

A team of scientists from the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, Delaware Valley University, Stanford University and the University of Chicago has identified a new giant species of extinct armored fish from fossils unearthed more than 15 years ago.

The new fish species, described in a paper published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, belongs to the group of Antiarchi, which are extinct fishes characterized by external, bony armored plates covering their heads, shoulders and front fins.

Measuring about five and a half feet long, the new discovered fish species was named Bothriolepis rex, which literally translates to king. Previously, Bothriolepis maxima, which is about 30 percent smaller than Bothriolepis rex, is considered to be the largest in the Antiarchi group.

"Bothriolepis rex extends the range of known body sizes for the group Antiarchi," said Jason Downs, PhD, a research associate at the Academy and assistant professor at Delaware Valley University and lead author of the study, in a press release. "The large body size and the thick, dense armor present a unique opportunity to address questions about the lifestyle of this unusual group of armored swimmers."

Despite its name, B-rex is not as ferocious as its terrestrial counterpart, the Tyrannosaurus rex. As a matter of fact, the thick bony plates of the Bothriolepis group served as some sort of protection against powerful marine predators during their time. Furthermore, the flat bottom and downward facing mouth of B-rex suggests that the marine giant feeds on detritus plant or animal material in the mud or sand.

The researchers were able to identify B-rex using fossils found near Okse Bay on Ellesmere Island in Nunavut, Canada in 2000. Fossils aging about 370 million years old from the Devonian Period were also found in the site.

B-rex, like others in the Antiarchi group, went extinct by the end of Devonian Period. Researchers are still not sure what the reason behind their extinction is. However, they speculated that the large size of the marine animal contributed to its demise.

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