An international team of scientists have identified two new species of ancient fish, both of which are believed to have swam the oceans some 92 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period — a time when dinosaurs walked the Earth.
The newly discovered species belong to the genus Rhinconichthys, which was first named in 2010. Until now, scientists have been under the impression that Rhinconichthys were not only rare, but limited to a single species. But now, in light of their recent findings, the team believes that there are not one, but three separate species of Rhinconichthys.
DePaul University paleobiologist Kenshu Shimada, a university professor and one of the study’s authors, explained in a statement that he was on the team “that named Rhinconichthys in 2010, which was based on a single species from England, but we had no idea back then that the genus was so diverse and so globally distributed”.
I was in a team that named Rhinconichthys in 2010, which was based on a single species from England, but we had no idea back then that the genus was so diverse and so globally distributed
The team of researchers behind the study, whose findings are scheduled to be published in the journal Cretaceous Research, include Bruce A. Schumacher with the U.S. Forest Service, Jeff Liston with the National Museum of Scotland, Anthony Maltese with the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center and of course, Shimada.
Schumacher is responsible for the discovery of the new specimen, which was discovered in Colorado.
In addition to the specimen discovered by Schumacher, a previously discovered fossil, a skull, came under re-examination by the team. The results of their analysis: two newly identified species, which have been named R. purgatoirensis and R. uyenoi.
The R. purgatoirensis fossil was discovered in North America, R. uyenoi in Asia and the previously identified species of R. taylori in Europe.
In regards to their findings, Shimada speculated on “how little” humanity knows when it comes to the biodiversity of the organisms that have inhabited our planet throughout the years.
Based on our new study, we now have three different species of Rhinconichthys from three separate regions of the globe, each represented by a single skull […] This tells just how little we still know about the biodiversity of organisms through the Earth’s history. It’s really mindboggling.
In the latter part of last year, an amateur paleontologist by the name of Stephanie Leco discovered a rare fish fossil at Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park that belonged to a Late Triassic period fish that had previously only been found in China.