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Amateurs Unearth Rare Fish Fossil


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Aussie hunters find rare fossil

It lived more than 100 million years ago, swimming in the southern ocean when Australia was effectively a polar continent.

At two metres long with large blade-like teeth, it was an impressive carnivore, something of a cross between a modern-day barracuda and a swordfish.

Now a pair of South Australian amateur fossil hunters, Tom and Sharon Hurley, say they have uncovered a wonderfully preserved snout of the previously unknown species, which will eventually bear their name.

Their find came on a trip to Queensland last year, when the couple's curiosity was sparked by an odd looking skull inside a large lump of rock.

It was handed over to the South Australian Museum and after many months of work has emerged as a new species of fish.

Museum research fellow Ben Kear said the Hurleys' find was believed to be the ancestor of the previously discovered protosphyraena, a large, predatory carnivorous species found regularly in Europe and North America.

But the new find is believed to be at least 20 million years older than any example of protosphyraena ever uncovered.

"When these animals were alive, Australia was effectively the southern polar continent, so you're talking about animals there living in the polar ocean," Dr Kear said.

"This fish is one of many new species that we've been finding recently and we're hoping to piece together an ancient fauna that is the equivalent of what are leopard seals and penguins.

"We're looking at animals that were living at the south pole 100 million years ago."

Dr Kear said the Hurleys' find also opened up the possibility of more species waiting to be discovered in the Australian outback.

"In Australia, in particular, which is a very big and very empty place, there's a lot of ground to cover," he said.

"So the beauty of this and the tantalising part is that who knows what else is out there.

"This is another piece to the puzzle but the puzzle is enormous and there's a lot of blank spaces."

Dr Kear is in the process of writing a scientific paper on the find which will be published next year.

His paper will give the species its name and while it remains closely guarded until publication, it will honour its finders, the Hurleys.

"We'd like to honour their discovery and honour their keen eyes by naming this fish after them," he said.

Edited by MallacootaPete
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