Monday, April 29, 2013

People Who Dig Dunkleosteus

The most fearsome predator of the Devonian has had his own page on FaceBook for a while now, and things are starting to pop a bit.
Dunk was a unique animal, scion of a line that was so far off the evolutionary tree that led to today's bony fishes that, as one authority puts it,  "Modern fish are more closely related to land animals than they are to Dunkleosteus." Steven McCole of the Natural History Museum in Cleveland, which is basically Dunk Central for the United States, has posted a terrific drawing and other material. What's fascinating about this predator, whose now-vanished order invented vertebrate sex (and perhaps the guillotine :)) is that we have so much to learn. We don't know what it looked like aft of the armor. We're not sure why its line failed when some other fishes survived the extinction event that ended the Devonian.  There are only a handful of scientific papers on the species at all. So my Dunk Facebook page, which covers some other paleontological news but focuses mainly on D. terrelli, is about an ongoing journey to uncover the past. 
Come on in, the water's fine!  (Deadly, but fine....)

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