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Ancient sabre-toothed fish fossil unearthed in Australia's outback


A rare fossilised lizardfish, never before seen in Australia, has been unearthed outside Richmond in outback Queensland.

Ancient sabre-toothed fish fossil unearthed in Australia's outback
The sabre-toothed creature is believed to have lived around the Richmond area 
100 million years ago [Credit: ABC]
Canadian tourists Gary and Barbara Flewelling discovered the sharp-toothed creature in October at a local fossil finding site.

"We hadn't been out here very long, simply turning over the layers of limestone and the first thing that showed up was just the tail," Mrs Flewelling said.

"And with the next slab in front of it, we turned that up, and there was the centre of it with all the vertebrae and all of the ribs. It was almost perfect. You could see the teeth, you could see the jaw, and probably the most exciting thing — the fact that it hasn't been seen before."

The lizardfish, since named "Fang", is 100 million years old, from the Early Cretaceous Period.

Mr Flewelling said it was finds like Fang that kept the couple coming back.

"We used to dig for opals and sapphires, [and] we found big sapphires, [but] this is priceless," he said.

"This is so much more fun than digging for gemstones."

Fossil 'one of a kind'

Dr Patrick Smith, curator of Kronosaurus Korner at Richmond, said this particular species of lizardfish was extremely rare.

"We don't know of any other species of lizardfish in Australia and, in fact, in the Early Cretaceous of Australia," he said.

"This guy would have been swimming around in the waters, probably in large schools, and they used their large fanged teeth to grasp hold of smaller fish or even invertebrates who were swimming around in the water at the same time."

video

The fossil is currently on display at the museum, but Dr Smith said it would be taken off display in the coming months to allow scientists to properly examine it.

"So this fish, being new, will be named by scientists once it's fully described in a scientific paper," he said.

"To have this lizardfish so complete it means we can describe its full anatomy, and that's great because we can get lots of details about its shape and form, and we can differentiate it from other species."

Tourists key to museum success

Almost half of the north west Queensland museum is dedicated to fossils discovered by tourists and volunteers.

"You don't have to be a palaeontologist. Anyone can go out and find these specimens," Dr Smith said.

"That's why we want people to go out to our free fossil finding sites and dig them up so that we can study them as scientists."

The museum is already planning its next big dig.

In 2017, the Kronosaurus Korner team and volunteers will work to dig up an elasmosaur.

"An elasmosaur has a body of a turtle and the neck and head of a snake," Dr Smith said.

"We're going to be trying to dig that up in July."

Author: Zara Margolis | Source: ABC News Website [January 13, 2017]
TANN

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