Peculiar ‘platypus-fish’ inhabited ancient Australia reef, study says

Scientists in Australia have reconstructed a bizarre ancient fossil of a fish with a long snout, reminiscent of the platypus, which swam on the sea floor like a stingray. The 400-million-year old fossil, named Brindabellaspis after the Brindabella Range near Australia’s capital Canberra, belongs to an extinct group of armoured prehistoric fish called the placoderms.
It was first found in 1980 in limestone around Lake Burrinjuck in New South Wales, north of The Brindabellas, in an area that has some of the world’s earliest known reef fish fauna.
Palaeontologists from Flinders University and Australia National University reconstructed two of the ancient fossils and discovered the strange fish with eyes on top of the head and the nostrils coming out of the eye sockets, along with a long bill or snout with jaws extending at the tip.
“This was one strange looking fish,” Benedict King, the author of the study from Flinders University, said.
The fossils were dated to the early Devonian period, more than 175million years before the first dinosaurs, according to the findings published in the journal Royal Society Open Science on Wednesday.
“We suspect that this animal was a bottom-dweller,” said John Long, a co-author of the study, from Flinders University.
“We imagine it used the bill to search for prey, somewhat like a platypus, while the eyes on top of the head looked out for danger from above,” he said. — dpa