Academy of Natural Sciences Announces Discovery of an ‘In-Between’ Fish

John Ostapkovich, KYW Newsradio 1060

Scientists at the Academy of Natural Sciences, on Logan Circle in Philadelphia, are part of a team announcing the recent discovery of a species of lumbering fish that preceded the dinosaurs.

It's genus is Laccognathus ("pitted jaw"), it's species embryi (in honor of a Canadian geologist named Embry). Numerous fossil heads and other parts of this prehistoric fish were found far north of the Arctic Circle, says Academy paleontologist Dr. Ted Daeschler.

"Laccognathus is a large fish, five to six feet in length. (It) probably prowled freshwater steams and delta systems," he says. "Flat head, very small eyes, very big mouth, very big teeth."

Laccognathus embryi is estimated to have lived 375 million years ago — prior to animals being on land but during a time of transition. Laccognathus apparently had fins that were more like limbs, perhaps indicating its role in the evolution of water-based swimmers to land-based walkers.

"The Devonian Period was a turning point in the history of the Earth, and our studies of the fossil fish from that period really help us understand the evolution of the Earth and the life that lived on it," Daeschler says.

But he says the Academy of Natural Sciences is not quite ready to display its Laccognathus yet.

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