Armoured 8ft-long fish with razor teeth unearthed after 360 million years

An eight-feet armoured fish with razor sharp teeth that roamed the seas 360 million years ago has been unearthed in South Africa.

Predatory Hyneria Udlezinye belonged to a diverse group known as tristochoterids – relatives of tetrapods, the first four limbed animals on land.

The creature was identified from fossilised bones including part of the skull, lower jaw, gill cover and shoulder girdle dug up on a farm near Grahamstown, about 68 miles northeast of Port Elizabeth.

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Lead author Dr Robert Gess, of Rhodes Unibversity in South Africa, said: "We describe the largest bony fish in the Late Devonian fossil assemblage.

"It is a giant member of the extinct clade tristichopteridae.

"The preserved material comprises most of the dermal skull, lower jaw, gill cover and shoulder girdle."

The creature's name translates from the widely spoken indigenous language of south eatern South Africa where it was found.

Dr Gess said Hyneria had a probable maximum length of nearly three metres.

He said: "This genus is otherwise only recorded from the late Famennian Catskill Formation of Pennsylvania.

"The new species, Hyneria udlezinye, differs from the type species Hyneria lindae in a number of minor but securely attested proportional characters relating to the skull roof, cheek, lower jaw and operculum."

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At the time, South Africa formed part of the southern supercontinent Gondwana. Hyneria lived about 120 million years before the dawn of the age of the dinosaurs.

Dr Gess said: "The other confirmed members of this clade are exclusively known from Gondwana.

"This strongly supports the contention that this clade represents a Gondwanan radiation."

Tristichopterids were a diverse and successful group of tetrapod fishes living throughout the Middle and Late Devonian.

They shares some of the features of the elpistostegalians, fishes that included tetrapods.

This mainly concerns the shape of the skull and a reduction in size of the posterior fins.

All tristichopterids had become extinct by the end of the Late Devonian. Hyneria is described in PLOS ONE.

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