Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Awesome Dunkleosteus

I've posted on this before, but I like to reconnect every once in a while with the most awesome prehistoric animal except for my first love, T. rex.  Dunkleosteus terrelli OWNED the seas of the Devonian, "The Age of Fishes."

I maintain the most popular page on the Dunk, here on Facebook.  Over 1,000 Dunk lovers have joined me.

Oddly, there is no book devoted to Dunkleosteus at any level.  It makes several appearances in fiction and popular culture, but it's still getting no respect compared to so many other prehistoric predators. That's a shame.  At a good 8 meters long (claims of 9 or 10 meters don't appear well-supported), the Dunk was a predator the likes of which the oceans never saw until the rise of the great marine reptiles.  The giant biting plates, so sharp one paleontologist said he could practically see himself in them today, constituted an implement of destruction never equaled since. We are talking about the functional equivalent of great sharpened fangs, only the size of traffic cones. The teeth of Megalodon or T. rex or Smilodon never came close.  With a head and forebody protected by bone some 5cm thick and with bone rings around the eyes, everything about the Dunk was built for combat.

Combat with what?

Once a Dunk grew to, say, 4 or 5 meters, the sharks of the day would not have been a threat.  Neither would the lesser placoderms,  Only other Dunks would have provided major competition. While paleozoologist Dr. Darren Naish once politely rebuked me for simplifying things down to "placoderms invented sex," they were the first vertebrates we know of to have male-female internal fertilization.  Did males compete for females? We don't know, but a clash between two armored submarines 8 m long must have been a terrifying spectacle.

Everything about the Dunk is scary, mysterious, or just plain awesome.  I hope you'll join me in following news of the study of this predator on Facebook and elsewhere.


My daughter Lauryn photographed this Dunk at the University of Nebraska museum.

Part of my collection of Dunk models and memorabilia.


Laurence Clark Crossen said...

this is about modifying Asian elephant DNA to recreate mammoth-like creatures.

Laurence Clark Crossen said...

first living since discovery in 64 years.

Matt Bille said...

More awesome comments, as always. Thanks!