Giant fish hunted the ancestors of humans on Earth: scientists have reconstructed its skeleton for the first time

Dmitry IvancheskulLife
Giant fish Hyneria udlezinye hunted for human ancestors

In South Africa, 360 million-year-old fossils have been discovered belonging to the oldest fish species that even hunted the ancient ancestors of humans. Giant fish with deadly fangs hunted in the river waters of the ancient southern supercontinent of Gondwana.

A team of researchers has been collecting and studying fossils at the Waterloo Farm site in South Africa for three decades. Their latest work sheds light on a new species of killer fish called Hyneria udlezinye, now thought to be the largest prehistoric bonefish ever found in the South African region.

According to a new study, the fish was 3 meters long and existed about 360 million years ago in the late Devonian period. Researchers named the discovered fish Hyneria udlezinye for its predatory nature, which translates to "devouring others" from the local kosa language.


This fish belongs to an extinct group of paddlefish called the tristichopteridae.

"Imagine a huge predatory fish, easily exceeding 2 meters in length and resembling a modern Mississippian armadillo, but with a shorter snout that resembled the front end of a torpedo," the creature was described to LiveScience by study co-author Per Alberg, a professor in the Department of Organismal Biology at Uppsala University in Sweden.

According to him, the predator's mouth contained rows of small teeth, as well as pairs of large fangs that could probably reach 5 centimeters in larger individuals.

"These fish (the so-called 'tristichopterids') are closely related to those that evolved into the first four-legged or terrestrial vertebrates. Sometime in the early Devonian period, the evolved lineage of fish split into two branches, one of which led to the first tetrapods (human ancestors) and the other to monsters such as gynieria," Alberg noted.

Evidence for the existence of such fish was first discovered back in 1995. But then only individual scales were found at the Waterloo Farm excavation site in South Africa.



A new study, however, reports that scientists were able to collect an entire skeleton of an ancient predator that preyed on humans.

The skeleton shows that the species Hyneria udlezinye was a voracious predator, with fins pointing toward the back of its body. According to study co-author Robert Hess, a paleontologist and researcher at the Albany Museum and Rhodes University in South Africa, this allowed the fish to be less visible and make sudden, deadly jerks at its victims.

He believes that usually the predator would hide in dark water or in the shadows and wait for prey that would swim by.

The giant fish probably preyed on four-legged creatures known as tetrapods, the ancestors from which the human race is descended.

Fossils from Waterloo Farms first indicate that the gynieria lived in a region of Gondwana that was thought to be polar at the time.

The predator fish disappeared in a mass extinction at the end of the Devonian period, about 359 million years ago. Today, there are no direct descendants of them on planet Earth.

Previously OBOZREVATEL also told that scientists have made a discovery about Neanderthals. It turned out that they were a "parallel humanity" that coexisted with Homo sapiens in Europe for several thousand years.

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