Bizarre Bear Gulch Fish Fossil Echinochimaera

"Male Part and Counterpart"

Echinochimaera meltoni

Class Chondrichthyes, Subclass Holocephali, Order Chimaeriformes, Family Echinochimaeridae

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

Size: Fish fossil is 78 mm long

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 chimaeras of today possess a poisonous spineModern chimaeras Echinochimaera fishforward of the dorsal fin. Echinochimaera also displays such a spine, and it possibly served the same defensive purpose. Note the exceptional detail to this fine specimen. This one is a male as demonstrated by the taller spine and presence of claspers. See my other offerings for an example of a female Echinochimaera, as well as the artist’s rendering of a pair. There is a repair that crosses the specimen, but it detracts but little from such a fine example.

click fossil images to enlarge

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