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Platypus-Like Fish Fossil Found at Ancient Reef Site

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Palaeontologists from Flinders University and the Australian National University have discovered a remarkable ancient fish fossil with a long snout that resembles a platypus bill.

The fossil, named Brindabellaspis after the nearby Brindabella Ranges, belongs to an extinct group of fish called the placoderms. It was first found in 1980 in limestone around Lake Burrinjuck in NSW, an area containing some of the world’s earliest known reef fish fauna. The researchers have reconstructed two of the ancient fossils and discovered that the fish had a long bill extending out in front of its eyes.

“This was one strange-looking fish,” said study author Benedict King. “The eyes were on top of the head, and the nostrils came out of the eye sockets. There was this long snout at the front, and the jaws were positioned very far forward.” The fossil also revealed a unique sensory system on the snout that turned out to be a modified form of the pressure sensor system found in other fish.

“We suspect that this animal was a bottom-dweller,” says co-author Prof John Long of Flinders University. “We imagine it used the bill to search for prey, somewhat like a platypus, while the eyes on top of the head looked out for danger from above.”

Dr Gavin Young of ANU found the first two specimens, but the sensitive snout region was missing. “When we saw the dense sensory...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.