Monday, August 23, 2010


Inspired by a visit to Chicago's Field Museum yesterday, today we're learning about Dunkleosteus, one of the largest and most awesome Placoderms! Placoderms are an entire class of armored, jawed fish that swam the late Silurian and Devonian Seas over 400 MILLION years ago. They also disappeared during the mass extinction around 359 million years ago. Dunkleosteus lived around 380-360 mya, and during its time was a massive, powerful apex carnivore.

Image from Wikimedia Commons
How massive and powerful was the Dunkleosteus? For for one, it is believed that they measured over 20ft long, and perhaps up to 30! In comparison, the Great White Shark reaches 20ft at a maximum. Dunkleosteus also had one of the most powerful bites in all of animal history, 8,000 pounds per square inch! Interestingly, they had no actual teeth, but instead had serrated jaw bones that could shear right through their prey and that grew continuously to counteract them getting worn down. These guys were not picky eaters either, fossils have been found near regurgitated and half digested prey, demonstrating that they ate just about anything they could find, including their own kind.

If Dunkleosteus were alive today, they could easily compete in a contest for the ocean's most deadliest. Alas, all species of class Placodermi went extinct by the end of the Devonian period, leaving no living descendants and giving way for the rise of other carnivorous swimming creatures. Fossils and casts of Dunkleosteus can be found in museums around the world, so if you can find one, go see it! That picture above does its size absolutely no justice.

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