February on this blog is going to be Daily Paleo Art Month! Because doing dinosaurs all last July was so much fun I want to do this thing again.
 Every weekday for the rest of the month I’ll be posting a new image of something strange, obscure, or just plain interesting from the fossil record — only this time we’re staying firmly outside of the Avemetatarsalia (pterosaurs and dinosaurs/birds) to give some less famous critters the spotlight.

#1: Helicoprion

A cartilaginous fish from off the southwest coast of the ancient supercontinent Gondwana (and later Pangaea), Helicoprion first appeared in the late Carboniferous (310 million years ago) and survived up until just past the massive Permian-Triassic extinction (250mya). Despite looking rather shark-like and possibly reaching sizes of around 6m (20ft) long, it was actually closer related to the chimaeras.

For a long time, the only parts of this animal known were bizarre buzzsaw-like spiral whorls of teeth, since cartilage skeletons very rarely fossilize. The ideas for just where in the body this structure was positioned were ridiculously varied.

The most recent reconstruction is based on CT scans of a well-preserved fossil with jaw and skull elements, which showed the whorl taking up the whole lower jaw. It also turns out Helicoprion had no upper teeth at all. It’s thought to have used this arrangement to shred and crush up squid and other soft-bodied marine prey, but there’s still very little known about how such a unique type of teeth evolved in the first place.


Australian Ghost Shark (Callorhinchus milii)

Also known as the Elephant Shark, Makrepe and the plownose chimaera, the Australian ghost shark is a species of chimaera ( a type of cartilaginous fish) found off of Southern Australia and parts of New Zealand. As its common name suggests the elephant shark has a long snout which resembles a trunk or a plow, this snout is used as a probe to aid the chimaera in finding small invertebrates and fish that are hidden in the sediment. Recently, the elephant shark genome has been proposed to be sequenced as a model species for the cartilaginous fish, as it has a small genome size and could help understand the evolution of early vertebrates.



Image Source(s)  


Spotted Ratfish - Hydrolagus colliei

Hydrolagus colliei is a species of cartilaginous fish of the chimaeras group (Chimaeriformes - Chimaeridae).

Chimaeras and chimeroid fish (ratfish, rabbitfish, and ghostsharks), are perhaps the oldest and most enigmatic groups of fishes alive today. Their closest living relatives are sharks, but their evolutionary lineage branched off from sharks nearly 400 million years ago, and they have remained an isolated group ever since. They are considered the missing link between the bony and cartilaginous fishes because they have the characteristics of both.

The Spotted ratfish, Hydrolagus collieihas a large rabbit-like head with a broad duckbill-shaped snout and large green eyes. The body tapers toward the posterior end of the fish; the tail makes up almost half the length of the overall length of the entire fish. There are prominent lateral line canals on the scaleless skin of this fish. 

At the leading edge of the first dorsal fin is a prominent venomous spine. The spine can be dangerous and cause a painful wound. Fishers are reputed to fear the jaws of the ratfish more than they do the dorsal spine.

This species occurs in the eastern Pacific, from Cape Spencer, Alaska to Bahía Sebastian Vizcaíno, Baja California (Mexico). There is an Isolated population in the northern Gulf of California.

References: [1] - [2] - [3] - [4]

Photo credit: ©Dan Hershman |  [Top - Locality: Edmonds Underwater Park, Edmonds, Washington, US (2011)] - [Bottom - Locality: Three Tree Point, Burien, Washington, US (2012)]


(probably) A new species of Chimaera Hydrolagus sp nov was seen from seamounts between Easter Island and Salas y Gómez Island, Chile in 2013, in a collaborative expedition between Oceana, NatGeo and Universidad Católica del Norte

chimaeriforme said:

What do you think the second to last line, a woman like that is not ashamed to die, means? I've heard of not being scared to die, but what about ashamed?

That’s a really good question. I don’t know exactly. I guess, the way I read the poem, I think it means that the woman identifying herself as the witch is free of the feelings of shame that are actually intrinsic to the death she’s describing. She can lose her life, but she isn’t shamed, subdued, tamed by her executioners. That’s what I think, but I’m interested in other readings.