New giant dinosaur discovered in Russia

A new kind of giant dinosaur has been described in Russia. Dubbed Volgatitan, the herbivore belonged to a family of long-necked dinosaurs called sauropods. It weighed 17 tons and walked the earth 200 million to 65 million years ago. The enormous dinosaur was identified from seven of its vertebrae, which had been stuck in a … Continue reading “New giant dinosaur discovered in Russia”

A new kind of giant dinosaur has been described in Russia. Dubbed Volgatitan, the herbivore belonged to a family of long-necked dinosaurs called sauropods. It weighed 17 tons and walked the earth 200 million to 65 million years ago.

The enormous dinosaur was identified from seven of its vertebrae, which had been stuck in a cliff for 130 million years until they were discovered on the banks of the Volga river near Ulyanovsk in 1982.

“[The fossils] come from a cliff of marine sediments which are rich in invertebrate fossils such as ammonite and bones [of] marine reptiles,” study author Dr. Alexander Averianov of the Russian Academy of Sciences told Fox News.

180-MILLION-YEAR-OLD 'SEA MONSTER' FOUND WITH SKIN AND BLUBBER

Averianov’s co-author Vladimir Efimov found the first three giant vertebrae after they fell out of the cliff in the early ’80s. A few years later, more limestone from the cliff broke off containing the remaining vertebrae. Efimov published a short note about the discovery in 1997, describing his discovery as “giant vertebrae of unknown taxonomic affiliation.”

An image of the vertebrae. (Alexander Averianov and Vladimir Efimov)

The bones sat for 20 years until they were re-examined by Averianov.

“I started my work on sauropods quite recently, published on sauropod remains from the Late Cretaceous of Uzbekistan and describing the first sauropod taxa from Russia, Tengrisaurus and Sibirotitan, in 2017 and 2018 respectively,” Averianov said. “I decided to also study the fossils reported by Efimov and visited his museum in July 2017 and examined the fossils.”

'UNICORN' FROM THE ICE AGE MAY HAVE EXISTED AT THE SAME TIME AS HUMANS, SHOCKING DISCOVERY REVEALS

Upon inspecting the bones, he noticed the caudal vertebrae’s unusual morphology.

“[After] checking the literature when I returned home, [I] confirmed that this is a new taxon of titanosaurian sauropods,” Averianov recounted. A taxon refers to a specific group.

Titanosaurs were the last surviving group of the giant long-necked dinosaurs and were some of the largest land animals known to have lived. It was previously believed that Titanosaurs’ evolution took place mainly in South America in the Early Cretaceous before some taxa migrated to North America, Europe and Asia in the Late Cretaceous. However, this new discovery in Russia shows that Titanosaurs were more widely distributed in the Early Cretaceous and that some of their important evolutionary stages may have happened in Eastern Europe and Asia.

ENORMOUS 20,000-POUND 'RHINO ELEPHANT’ ROAMED THE TRIASSIC

Weighing in at 17 tons, Volgatitan’s not even close to being the largest titan of the Titanosaurs.

“The largest members of this lineage reached 50-70 tons, but they lived much later, in the Late Cretaceous period,” Averianov explained. “Volgatitan is one of the oldest titanosaurian sauropods which lived in the beginning of the Early Cretaceous period, some 130 million years ago. However, it is quite large comparative to other earliest Cretaceous sauropods.”

Averianov hopes to describe yet another new taxon of another dinosaur next, this one pretty famous as far as iconic dinos go.

“We are currently working on the dinosaurs collected from the Early Cretaceous site in Yakutia, Eastern Siberia,” he said. “The fauna is dominated by stegosaurs and possibly we shall describe a new taxon of stegosaur when all specimens will be prepared.”

The study can be found in the latest issue of Biological Communications.

Do you carry Neanderthal DNA? The shape of your skull may tell.

The shape of your brain may say a lot about the Neanderthal in you. New research has found that modern humans carrying certain genetic fragments from our closest extinct relatives may have more oblong brains and skulls than other people.

Modern humans possess unique, relatively globular skulls and brains. In contrast, the closest extinct relatives of modern humans, Neanderthals, have the elongated skulls and brains that are typical of most primates.

Previous research had suggested these contrasting skull shapes might reflect differences in the size of various brain regions in modern humans and Neanderthals, and how these brain areas were wired together. "However, brain tissue doesn't fossilize, so the underlying biology has remained elusive," co-lead study author Philipp Gunz, a paleoanthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, told Live Science. [3D Images: Exploring the Human Brain]

To help solve this mystery, scientists first took CT (computed tomography) scans of seven fossil Neanderthal skulls and 19 modern human skulls. They developed imprints of the interiors of the skulls' braincases and measured their roundness.

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  • Next, the researchers analyzed nearly 4,500 modern humans for whom they had both genetic data and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of their brains.

    "We reasoned that if we could identify specific Neanderthal DNA fragments in a large enough sample of living humans, we would be able to test whether any of these fragments push towards a less globular brain shape, allowing us to zoom in on genes that might be important for this trait," senior study author Simon Fisher, a neurogeneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, told Live Science.

    Prior work found that modern humans and Neanderthals experienced multiple episodes of interbreeding, introducing Neanderthal DNA into the modern human genome. In the new study, the scientists discovered that Neanderthal DNA fragments in modern human chromosomes 1 and 18 were linked with less round brains.

    "The effects of carrying these rare Neanderthal fragments are subtle," Fisher said. "The effects of the Neanderthal gene variants are small, you would not be able to see them in a person's head shape when you meet them."

    The Neanderthal DNA fragments contained two genes previous research linked to brain development. One, UBR4, is linked with the generation of neurons, and the other, PHLPP1, is associated with the development of fatty insulation around nerve cells.

    The researchers discovered that this Neanderthal DNA had the strongest effects on brain structures known as the putamen and the cerebellum — both of which are key to the preparation, learning and coordination of movements. The putamen forms the outer portion of the brain's basal ganglia, which are associated with memory, attention, planning, the learning of skills, and potentially speech and language.

    The scientists noted that if a person has more Neanderthal DNA than average, that does not necessarily mean their brain is more oblong. "Two people who have very similar total amounts of Neanderthal DNA — for example, 1 percent of their genomes — may well carry completely different fragments," Fisher said.

    The researchers also noted these skull differences likely did not reflect any differences at the time of an infant's birth: Modern humans and Neanderthals have similar braincase and skull shapes at that time, Gunz said. After birth, differences in brain development likely resulted in the pronounced differences that are found in skull shape between adults of the two lineages, he added.

    Future research can look for more Neanderthal DNA linked with modern human brains and determine what specific effects these ancient genetic variants might have by growing brain tissue with Neanderthal DNA in the lab, Fisher said.

    The scientists detailed their findings online Dec. 13 in the journal Current Biology.

    Image Gallery: Our Closest Human AncestorHomo Naledi in Photos: Images of the Small-Brained Human RelativeTop 10 Things That Make Humans Special

    Originally published on Live Science.

    Skeleton of ancient marsupial lion, ‘Tasmanian devil on steroids,’ reconstructed for first time

    For the first time, scientists have reconstructed the full skeleton of the predatory, prehistoric animal known as the “marsupial lion” which roamed Australia thousands of years ago.

    Using recently discovered bones found in Komatsu Cave in Naracoorte in South Australia and Flight Star Cave in the Nullarbor Plain, including the first “known remains of the tail and collarbone of this animal” as well as previously discovered fossils, and comparing their findings to the anatomy of marsupials found today, scientists with Flinders University in Australia were able to reconstruct how the marsupial lion likely looked.

    180-MILLION-YEAR-OLD 'SEA MONSTER' FOUND WITH SKIN AND BLUBBER

    The research, published Wednesday in the journal PLOS, allowed scientists to “reach new conclusions about the biology and behavior of the ‘marsupial lion,’” according to a statement from the study's authors.

    The skeleton was reconstructed in its entirety for the first time. (PLOS)

    The marsupial lion, they learned, possibly weighed more than 200 pounds and had a tail that “appears to have been stiff and heavily-muscled.” The animal, more formally known as the Thylacoleo carnifex, likely used its tail and hind legs to support itself while using its forelimbs for climbing or “handling” food, researchers said. This prehistoric creature also used its large, sharp claw to kill prey.

    “The analysis suggests that Thylacoleo had a rigid lower back and powerful forelimbs anchored by strong collarbones, likely making it poorly suited for chasing prey, but well-adapted for ambush hunting and/or scavenging,” the researchers added.

    The animal launched onto its prey from trees “or others high perches,” ABC in Australia reports. The structure of its collarbones also implies the marsupial lion was capable of pulling its prey up a tree or was able to “hang on to struggling prey,” Rod Wells, one of the study’s authors from Flinders University, told the outlet.

    The prehistoric creature was a predatory animal that likely used its tail and hind legs a support when handling prey.  (PLOS)

    'UNICORN' FROM THE ICE AGE MAY HAVE EXISTED AT THE SAME TIME AS HUMANS, SHOCKING DISCOVERY REVEALS

    Based on their findings, the researchers theorized the marsupial lion resembles the Tasmanian devil. In fact, one paleontologist, Michael Archer with the University of New South Wales in Australia, likened the marsupial lion to “a Tasmanian devil on steroids.”

    "When you think of a Tasmanian devil on steroids — a lot of steroids — if it's going to spend time tearing giant kangaroos apart, the idea that it would sit back on its haunches means that its tail really did need to bend like that,” Archer told ABC.

    Madeline Farber is a Reporter for Fox News. You can follow her on Twitter @MaddieFarberUDK.

    180-million-year-old ‘sea monster’ found with skin and blubber

    The fossil of a 180-million-year-old ichthyosaur from the Jurassic era has been discovered and it contains evidence of blubber and skin, making the creature more similar to modern-day dolphins than previously thought.

    The team of researchers from North Carolina State University and Sweden’s Lund University used molecular and microstructural analysis to determine that the creature, described by National Geographic as a "sea monster," was likely warm-blooded and potentially could use its coloration to help it hide from predators.

    “Ichthyosaurs are interesting because they have many traits in common with dolphins, but are not at all closely related to those sea-dwelling mammals,” says research co-author Mary Schweitzer in a statement. “We aren’t exactly sure of their biology either. They have many features in common with living marine reptiles like sea turtles, but we know from the fossil record that they gave live birth, which is associated with warm-bloodedness. This study reveals some of those biological mysteries.”

    85-MILLION-YEAR-OLD SEA MONSTER FOUND IN KANSAS

    Johan Lindgren, the lead author on the study, noted “Both the body outline and remnants of internal organs are clearly visible,” adding “Remarkably, the fossil is so well-preserved that it is possible to observe individual cellular layers within its skin.”

    The study has been published in the scientific journal Nature.

    In addition to blubber and skin, the researchers found traces of an internal organ that is believed to be the creature's liver.

    Evidence of the blubber, which is only found in "animals capable of maintaining body temperatures independent of ambient conditions," as well as the liver denotes that the creature had a similar skin makeup to a whale, dark on top and light on the bottom, to help it avoid predators.

    “Both morphologically and chemically, we found that although Stenopterygius would be loosely considered ‘reptiles,’ they lost the scaly skin associated with these animals – just as the modern leatherback sea turtle has,” Schweitzer added in the statement. “Losing the scales reduces drag and increases maneuverability underwater."

    He continued: “This animal’s preservation is unusual, especially for a marine environment – but then, the Holzmaden formation is known for its exceptional preservation. This specimen has given us more evidence that these tissues and molecules can preserve for extremely long periods, and that soft tissue analysis can shed light on evolutionary patterns, relationships, and how ancient animals functioned in their environment.

    150-MILLION-YEAR 'SEA MONSTER' UNEARTHED IN INDIA

    “Our results were repeatable and consistent across labs. This work really shows what we’re capable of discovering when we perform a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional study of an exceptional specimen.”

    In April, a 205-million-year ichthyosaur fossil was discovered in southwestern England. The creature was estimated to be nearly 85 feet in length based on the fossil, which would make it nearly the size of a blue whale and "one of the largest animals to ever live."

    Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia

    ‘Unicorn’ from the Ice Age may have existed at the same time as humans, shocking discovery reveals

    Unicorns may be mythical creatures from ancient literature, but an ancient rhinoceros that was thought to have died out 200,000 years ago bears an eery resemblance to the legendary creature — and may have actually walked the Earth with modern-day humans.

    Known as Elasmotherium sibiricum, this giant beast may have become extinct around 39,000 years ago, according to a new study published in Nature.

    "Stable isotope data indicate a dry steppe niche for E. sibiricum and, together with morphology, a highly specialized diet that probably contributed to its extinction," the researchers wrote in the study. E. sibiricum is also known as the "Siberian unicorn," because of the large horn atop its head.

    SCIENTISTS WANT TO CLONE THIS EXTINCT, FROZEN PREHISTORIC HORSE

    E. sibiricum was enormous, at approximately 3.5 tons. By comparison, the white rhinoceros, the largest living rhino, weighs approximately 2.5 tons.

    In addition to its size, its structure and shape was also "remarkable," the researchers noted: "relatively slender limbs indicating adaptation for running, despite its mass; absence of incisors and canines; and—uniquely among rhinoceroses—continuously growing cheek teeth with distinctive, highly convoluted enamel plates."

    Its elongated horn, significantly larger than other rhinos, may be the result of a "bony protuberance on the frontal bone of the skull, which implies a horn base much larger than in any other rhinoceros, living or extinct," the researchers added.

    "E. sibiricum was thought to have become extinct by 200,000 years ago, although recent, unconfirmed reports suggested that it might have persisted into the late Pleistocene, the researchers wrote in the study. "Its ecological niche has been a matter of speculation, from grazing on dry steppes to foraging for roots in damp riverine environments."

    The researchers, led by study co-author Adrian Lister, looked at 25 bone samples and found 23 were able to be analyzed using radiocarbon dating because there was enough collagen left in them. Based on the data, Lister and the other researchers were able to determine that the species was still living in Europe and Asia approximately 39,000 years ago, along with modern humans.

    The earliest homo sapien fossils outside of Africa have been carbon dated to approximately 177,000 years, according to a January 2018 study in the journal Science.

    E. sibiricum is thought to have inhabited areas such as Kazakhstan, western and central Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, and certain areas in Mongolia and China, though that may be more closely associated with E. caucasicum, another genus of rhinoceros.

    CAN THE LONG-EXTINCT WOOLLY MAMMOTH BE CLONED?

    Speaking with LiveScience, Ross MacPhee, a curator with the Department of Mammalogy at the American Museum of Natural History, said it's possible that these creatures lived even longer than believed, given the scarcity of their fossils.

    "Rhino fossils are comparatively rare — they're not at all like wooly mammoths or bison in Siberia — and the fewer specimens you have, the less certain you can be," MacPhee told the publication. "You don't really know where you are, with respect to the 'life cycle' of the species."

    Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia

    Puppy finds woolly mammoth tooth in backyard

    Kirk Lacewell has lived in Langley, Wa. for approximately six years, part of that time with his dog, Scout. But when Scout began to dig into the backyard, it wasn't just any old rock he was uncovering — it was a woolly mammoth tooth.

    "I saw him with what looked like a rock to me one day a couple months ago and I didn’t think anything of it," Lacewell told Fox News. "And then the next day he had that rock again. He was just carrying it around the yard."

    Initially, Lacewell thought it was just a rock, but it seemed different and he called experts at the University of Washington who confirmed that it was something much greater than a rock. "I called the museum over there at the University of Washington and the paleontologists examined the pictures and told me this was part of a wooly mammoth tooth," Lacewell said.

    CAN THE LONG-EXTINCT WOOLLY MAMMOTH BE CLONED?

    Lacewell was told the tooth could be as old as 13,000-years-old. While it isn't a rare find for the western part of Washington, according to the Burke Museum, it was most definitely a big find for Lacewell's dog, Scout.

    Now, Lacewell's neighbors wonder what other prehistoric treasures could be hidden below the surface. Lacewell told Fox News he intends to keep the tooth as a family heirloom, adding that Scout could wind up finding more hidden gems.

    "You know Andy Warhol said everybody's going to have fifteen minutes of fame, well Scout and I are famous for fifteen minutes now."

    Mammoth recoveries around the world

    Most woolly mammoths died out about 10,000 years ago, though there have been some remains found on the remote Wrangel Island, off the northern coast of eastern Siberia, that have been dated back to approximately 1,700 years ago. In October, woolly mammoth bones believed to be 130,000 years-old were discovered in England as road workers expanded the A14 highway.

    While many scientists believe they died off from the changing climate and human hunters, others are attempting to bring back the mammoth with the use of gene editing, including the controversial CRISPR gene editing tool.

    George Church, a Harvard and MIT geneticist and co-founder of CRISPR is the head of the Harvard Woolly Mammoth Revival team, a project that is in attempting to introduce mammoth genes into the Asian elephant for conservation purposes.

    SCIENTISTS WANT TO CLONE THIS EXTINCT, FROZEN PREHISTORIC HORSE

    "The elephants that lived in the past — and elephants possibly in the future — knocked down trees and allowed the cold air to hit the ground and keep the cold in the winter, and they helped the grass grow and reflect the sunlight in the summer," Church told Live Science in May. "Those two [factors] combined could result in a huge cooling of the soil and a rich ecosystem."

    In June, a mysterious mammoth bone was found on a beach in Loch Ryan in southwest Scotland.

    In August, a frozen woolly mammoth was found in Siberia, with researchers theorizing that it may be a new type of species, because of its small stature. It has been dubbed a "Golden mammoth" and could be as much as 50,000 years old.

    In September, a mammoth kill site was found in Austria, where Stone Age people slaughtered mammoths.

    Fox News' Steve Kiggins and James Rogers contributed to this report. Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia

    Flesh-eating piranha-like fish’s 150-million-year-old remains discovered in Germany

    This is one fish that definitely belonged in Jurassic mark – bite mark, that is.

    A 150-million-year old Piranha-like fish has been discovered, capable of ripping the flesh off the bones of its prey, according to a new study.

    The fish, Piranhamesodon pinnatomus, lived during the late Jurassic period, when sharks and turtles feasted on creatures in the sea using their teeth and dinosaurs roamed the land. However, fish were thought to eat only plankton and crushed shells or swallow their food whole, so the presence of teeth surprised the researchers.

    85 MILLION-YEAR-OLD SEA MONSTER FOUND IN KANSAS

    "The dentition pattern, tooth shape, jaw morphology, and mechanics are all indicative of a feeding apparatus suitable for slicing flesh or fins, thus pioneering a new ecological niche," a summary of the study reads. "Evidence suggests that it may have exploited aggressive mimicry in a striking parallel to the feeding patterns of modern piranha."

    This illustration shows an artist’s reconstruction of the head of the piranha-like fish. The remains of an 150-million-year old piranha-like species – the earliest known flesh-eating fish – have been discovered in a German quarry. (Credit: SWNS)

    The summary continues: "Remarkably, fossil fishes recovered from the same deposits as the new pycnodontiform show injuries to fins and fin bases. As a marine piranha-like fish contemporary with dinosaurs, it is the oldest known flesh-eating actinopterygian, revealing remarkable convergent evolution with modern piranhas."

    The study was published in the scientific journal Cell Biology.

    These dinosaur-aged piranhas were discovered in German limestone, in the quarry of Ettling in the Solnhofen region of the country.

    The study's co-authors, Dr. Martina Kölbl-Ebert and James Cook University professor David Bellwood, were "stunned" at the findings, comparing it to finding a "sheep with a snarl like a wolf." They were able to use CT-scans to look at the fossilized fish and estimate characteristics such as bite force and then compare them with modern-day piranhas.

    "But what was even more remarkable is that it was from the Jurassic," Dr. Kölbl-Ebert said in a statement. "Fish as we know them, bony fishes, just did not bite flesh of other fishes at that time. Sharks have been able to bite out chunks of flesh but throughout history bony fishes have either fed on invertebrates or largely swallowed their prey whole. Biting chunks of flesh or fins was something that came much later."

    Bellwood was amazed at how similar these fish are to modern-day piranhas, which do not eat living flesh as is commonly thought, but the fins of other fishes.

    SCIENTISTS MAY HAVE UNCOVERED WHAT DINOSAUR DNA LOOKS LIKE

    "This is an amazing parallel with modern piranhas, which feed predominantly not on flesh but the fins of other fishes," Bellwood added in the statement. "It's a remarkably smart move as fins regrow, a neat renewable resource. Feed on a fish and it is dead; nibble its fins and you have food for the future."

    Piranhas will occasionally eat small mammals, but it is usually when the animal is already dead.

     Scientists say the "remarkable" bony fish lived in the sea at the same time as the dinosaurs roamed the earth and had teeth like a piranha, which it used to bite off chunks of flesh from other fish. (Credit: SWNS)

    Though P. pinnatomus is not related to the modern fresh-water piranha, its similarities (such as long pointed teeth and strong jaws) highlight the "staggering example of evolutionary versatility and opportunism" that was going on in the salty seas millions of years ago.

    "The new finding represents the earliest record of a bony fish that bit bits off other fishes, and what's more it was doing it in the sea," Bellwood said. "So when dinosaurs were walking the earth and small dinosaurs were trying to fly with the pterosaurs, fish were swimming around their feet tearing the fins or flesh off each other."

    Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia

    Flesh-eating piranha-like fish’s 150-million-year-old remains discovered in Germany

    This is one fish that definitely belonged in Jurassic mark – bite mark, that is.

    A 150-million-year old Piranha-like fish has been discovered, capable of ripping the flesh off the bones of its prey, according to a new study.

    The fish, Piranhamesodon pinnatomus, lived during the late Jurassic period, when sharks and turtles feasted on creatures in the sea using their teeth and dinosaurs roamed the land. However, fish were thought to eat only plankton and crushed shells or swallow their food whole, so the presence of teeth surprised the researchers.

    85 MILLION-YEAR-OLD SEA MONSTER FOUND IN KANSAS

    "The dentition pattern, tooth shape, jaw morphology, and mechanics are all indicative of a feeding apparatus suitable for slicing flesh or fins, thus pioneering a new ecological niche," a summary of the study reads. "Evidence suggests that it may have exploited aggressive mimicry in a striking parallel to the feeding patterns of modern piranha."

    This illustration shows an artist’s reconstruction of the head of the piranha-like fish. The remains of an 150-million-year old piranha-like species – the earliest known flesh-eating fish – have been discovered in a German quarry. (Credit: SWNS)

    The summary continues: "Remarkably, fossil fishes recovered from the same deposits as the new pycnodontiform show injuries to fins and fin bases. As a marine piranha-like fish contemporary with dinosaurs, it is the oldest known flesh-eating actinopterygian, revealing remarkable convergent evolution with modern piranhas."

    The study was published in the scientific journal Cell Biology.

    These dinosaur-aged piranhas were discovered in German limestone, in the quarry of Ettling in the Solnhofen region of the country.

    The study's co-authors, Dr. Martina Kölbl-Ebert and James Cook University professor David Bellwood, were "stunned" at the findings, comparing it to finding a "sheep with a snarl like a wolf." They were able to use CT-scans to look at the fossilized fish and estimate characteristics such as bite force and then compare them with modern-day piranhas.

    "But what was even more remarkable is that it was from the Jurassic," Dr. Kölbl-Ebert said in a statement. "Fish as we know them, bony fishes, just did not bite flesh of other fishes at that time. Sharks have been able to bite out chunks of flesh but throughout history bony fishes have either fed on invertebrates or largely swallowed their prey whole. Biting chunks of flesh or fins was something that came much later."

    Bellwood was amazed at how similar these fish are to modern-day piranhas, which do not eat living flesh as is commonly thought, but the fins of other fishes.

    SCIENTISTS MAY HAVE UNCOVERED WHAT DINOSAUR DNA LOOKS LIKE

    "This is an amazing parallel with modern piranhas, which feed predominantly not on flesh but the fins of other fishes," Bellwood added in the statement. "It's a remarkably smart move as fins regrow, a neat renewable resource. Feed on a fish and it is dead; nibble its fins and you have food for the future."

    Piranhas will occasionally eat small mammals, but it is usually when the animal is already dead.

     Scientists say the "remarkable" bony fish lived in the sea at the same time as the dinosaurs roamed the earth and had teeth like a piranha, which it used to bite off chunks of flesh from other fish. (Credit: SWNS)

    Though P. pinnatomus is not related to the modern fresh-water piranha, its similarities (such as long pointed teeth and strong jaws) highlight the "staggering example of evolutionary versatility and opportunism" that was going on in the salty seas millions of years ago.

    "The new finding represents the earliest record of a bony fish that bit bits off other fishes, and what's more it was doing it in the sea," Bellwood said. "So when dinosaurs were walking the earth and small dinosaurs were trying to fly with the pterosaurs, fish were swimming around their feet tearing the fins or flesh off each other."

    Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia

    Flesh-eating piranha-like fish’s 150-million-year-old remains discovered in Germany

    This is one fish that definitely belonged in Jurassic mark – bite mark, that is.

    A 150-million-year old Piranha-like fish has been discovered, capable of ripping the flesh off the bones of its prey, according to a new study.

    The fish, Piranhamesodon pinnatomus, lived during the late Jurassic period, when sharks and turtles feasted on creatures in the sea using their teeth and dinosaurs roamed the land. However, fish were thought to eat only plankton and crushed shells or swallow their food whole, so the presence of teeth surprised the researchers.

    85 MILLION-YEAR-OLD SEA MONSTER FOUND IN KANSAS

    "The dentition pattern, tooth shape, jaw morphology, and mechanics are all indicative of a feeding apparatus suitable for slicing flesh or fins, thus pioneering a new ecological niche," a summary of the study reads. "Evidence suggests that it may have exploited aggressive mimicry in a striking parallel to the feeding patterns of modern piranha."

    This illustration shows an artist’s reconstruction of the head of the piranha-like fish. The remains of an 150-million-year old piranha-like species – the earliest known flesh-eating fish – have been discovered in a German quarry. (Credit: SWNS)

    The summary continues: "Remarkably, fossil fishes recovered from the same deposits as the new pycnodontiform show injuries to fins and fin bases. As a marine piranha-like fish contemporary with dinosaurs, it is the oldest known flesh-eating actinopterygian, revealing remarkable convergent evolution with modern piranhas."

    The study was published in the scientific journal Cell Biology.

    These dinosaur-aged piranhas were discovered in German limestone, in the quarry of Ettling in the Solnhofen region of the country.

    The study's co-authors, Dr. Martina Kölbl-Ebert and James Cook University professor David Bellwood, were "stunned" at the findings, comparing it to finding a "sheep with a snarl like a wolf." They were able to use CT-scans to look at the fossilized fish and estimate characteristics such as bite force and then compare them with modern-day piranhas.

    "But what was even more remarkable is that it was from the Jurassic," Dr. Kölbl-Ebert said in a statement. "Fish as we know them, bony fishes, just did not bite flesh of other fishes at that time. Sharks have been able to bite out chunks of flesh but throughout history bony fishes have either fed on invertebrates or largely swallowed their prey whole. Biting chunks of flesh or fins was something that came much later."

    Bellwood was amazed at how similar these fish are to modern-day piranhas, which do not eat living flesh as is commonly thought, but the fins of other fishes.

    SCIENTISTS MAY HAVE UNCOVERED WHAT DINOSAUR DNA LOOKS LIKE

    "This is an amazing parallel with modern piranhas, which feed predominantly not on flesh but the fins of other fishes," Bellwood added in the statement. "It's a remarkably smart move as fins regrow, a neat renewable resource. Feed on a fish and it is dead; nibble its fins and you have food for the future."

    Piranhas will occasionally eat small mammals, but it is usually when the animal is already dead.

     Scientists say the "remarkable" bony fish lived in the sea at the same time as the dinosaurs roamed the earth and had teeth like a piranha, which it used to bite off chunks of flesh from other fish. (Credit: SWNS)

    Though P. pinnatomus is not related to the modern fresh-water piranha, its similarities (such as long pointed teeth and strong jaws) highlight the "staggering example of evolutionary versatility and opportunism" that was going on in the salty seas millions of years ago.

    "The new finding represents the earliest record of a bony fish that bit bits off other fishes, and what's more it was doing it in the sea," Bellwood said. "So when dinosaurs were walking the earth and small dinosaurs were trying to fly with the pterosaurs, fish were swimming around their feet tearing the fins or flesh off each other."

    Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia