Bizarre Bear Gulch Fish Fossil Echinochimaera

"Female Part and Counterpart"

Echinochimaera meltoni

Class Chondrichthyes, Subclass Holocephali, Order Chimaeriformes, Family Echinochimaeridae

Geological Time: Mississippian (~320 m.y.a.)

Size: Fish fossil is 76 mm long by 35 mm tall

Fossil Site: Heath Shale Formation, Bear Gulch Limestone, Fergus County, Montana

Echinochimaera meltoniDescription: The Bear Gulch Limestone is a deposit of some 70 square km in extent and 30 m in depth that has been a source of one of the most diverse assemblagesEchinochimaera of fossil fish with some 110 species having been described over the past 30 years. Most were new to science, and provided a unique view of the marine environment of Mississippian times. Fine preservation of both fish and invertebrates is a hallmark of these deposits, presumably due to an anoxic depositional environment. This specimen is a chimaeroid known as Echinochimaera meltoni, related to the modern day chimaeras that are known as ghost sharks or ratfishes (see life drawing of Chimaera monstrosa). Most Echinochimaera fishchimaeras of today possess a poisonous spine forward of the dorsal fin. Echinochimaera also Modern chimaerasdisplays such a spine, and it possibly served the same defensive purpose. Note the exceptional detail to this fine specimen. This one is a female as demonstrated by the smaller dorsal and spine and less flamboyant ornamentation. See an example of a male Echinochimaera, as well as the artist’s rendering of a pair.

Fossil images folder 1995

click fossil images to enlarge


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