Science

200 million-year-old fossil shows oldest 'squid attack' on record

One such pre-historic relic from 200 million years ago has been discovered by scientists where a squid-like animal was fossilized with prey in its mouth near Charmouth in Dorset, the UK.

A rare, 200-million-year-old fossil found off the southern coast of the United Kingdom preserved an encounter in which a squid ancestor crushed the head of a prehistoric fish in its tentacles. Within the fossil is a Clarkeiteuthis montefiorei, an ancient creature resembling a squid, with a fish (Dorsetichthys bechei) ensnared in its jaws.

Hart continued: "This, however, is a most unusual, if not extraordinary, fossil as predation events are only very occasionally found in the geological record". Predator and prey died in a deadly embrace, and their interlocked bodies were fossilized under the waves.

The team identified the attacker as a Clarkeiteuthis montefiorei with its prey belonging to the herring-like species Dorsetichthys bechei.

The study was presented for publication in the journal Proceedings of the Geologists' Association. She is now held in the collections of the British geological survey in Nottingham.

According to researchers, the position of the cephalopod, whose arms run alongside the body of the fish, suggests it was attempting to feed on the creature.

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This is now the oldest known fossil involving a diplobelid (the technical term for this squid-like cephalopod), predating the previous record by 10 million years.

An worldwide team of paleontologists from the University of Plymouth, the University of Kansas and the Forge Fossils has found a specimen of the squid-like cephalopod Clarkeiteuthis montefiorei preserved with the herring-like fish Dorsetichthys bechei in its two arms; the bones in the head of the fish are broken in a manner that suggests a quite violent attack.

One hypothesis is that the squid's eyes were bigger than its stomach: The fish was simply too large for its attacker, and became lodged in the predator's beak.

Hart told Newsweek: "This seems to be the earliest example of squid-fish predation, and had been in the collections in London, then Keyworth, since the 1870s". The age of the fossil, almost 200 million years, predates any previously catalogued sample of a similar nature by over 10 million years.

Rather, Hart and his colleagues hypothesized two scenarios that could have led to this unique 24-inch-long (60 cm) fossil. The Dorset and East Devon Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is home to other Jurassic fossils such as "huge ichthyosaurs and pliosaurs, and they would have eaten anything", Hart said. And during this process, it is possible that it engaged in "distraction sinking" to evade an attack from another predator.

Hart noted that he's studied the formations on the ground where this fossil was found and noticed that it was abundant in "microfossils that would have required oxygen" adding to mystery of how the creature and its prey ended up fossilized.



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