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Leedsichthys
Fossil range: Middle Jurassic
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Pachycormiformes[1]
Family: Pachycormidae
Genus: Leedsichthys
Species: L. problematicus
Binomial name
Leedsichthys problematicus
Woodward, 1889

Leedsichthys was a giant pachycormid (an extinct group of Mesozoic bony fish) that lived in the oceans of the Middle Jurassic period.[2] The closest living relative of the pachycormids is the bowfin, Amia calva, but this is only very distantly related. The name Leedsichthys means "Leeds' fish", after the fossil collector Alfred Nicholson Leeds, who discovered it before 1886 near Peterborough, England.[2] The fossils found by Leeds gave the fish the species epithet problematicus, because the remains were so fragmented that they were extremely hard to recognize and interpret.[2]

The remains of Leedsichthys have been found in the Callovian of England, northern Germany and France, the Oxfordian of Chile, and the Kimmeridgian of France.[3]

Contents

Size

Unfortunately, although the remains of over seventy individuals have been found, these are usually partial and fragmentary.[2] This has made it difficult to estimate its length. Arthur Smith Woodward, who described the specimen in 1889,[4] estimated it to be 30 feet (around 9 metres) long,[5] by comparing the tail of Leedsichthys with another pachycormid, Hypsocormus. In 1986, Martill compared the bones of Leedsichthys to a pachycormid that he had recently discovered,[6] but the unusual proportions of that specimen gave a wide range of possible sizes.[3] More recent estimates, from documentation of historical finds[7] and the excavation of the most complete specimen ever from the Star Pit near Whittlesey, Peterborough,[8][9] support Smith Woodward's figures of between 30 and 33 feet (9 and 10 meters). Recent work on growth ring structures within the remains of Leedsichthys have also indicated that it would have taken 21-25 years to reach these lengths,[10] and isolated elements from other specimens indicate that a maximum size of just over 53 feet (16 metres[11]) is not unreasonable.

Like the largest fish today, the whale sharks and basking sharks, Leedsichthys problematicus derived its nutrition using an array of specialised gill rakers lining its gill basket to extract zooplankton from the water passing through its mouth and across its gills. There is little direct evidence for predation as opposed to scavenging on Leedsichthys remains, but specimen P.6924 in the Natural History Museum of London shows signs of bites from a Liopleurodon-sized pliosaur. These bites have then healed, indicating that Leedsichthys could even escape the top predator of the Oxford Clay seas, probably as a result of its powerful tail.

Footnotes

  1. ^ Wiley. "Phylum Chordata". p. 100. http://media.wiley.com/product_data/excerpt/17/04712503/0471250317.pdf. Retrieved 2009-04-11.  
  2. ^ a b c d Liston, 2004
  3. ^ a b Liston, 2008a
  4. ^ Smith Woodward, 1889
  5. ^ Smith Woodward, 1905
  6. ^ Martill, 1986
  7. ^ Liston & Noè, 2004
  8. ^ Sloan, 2004
  9. ^ Liston, 2006
  10. ^ Liston, Steel & Challands, 2005
  11. ^ Liston, 2005

References

  • Haines, Tim & Chambers, Paul. (2006). The Complete Guide to Prehistoric Life. Canada: Firefly Books Ltd.
  • Liston, JJ (2004). An overview of the pachycormiform Leedsichthys. In: Arratia G and Tintori A (eds) Mesozoic Fishes 3 - Systematics, Paleoenvironments and Biodiversity. Verlag Dr. Friedrich Pfeil, München, pp 379-390.
  • Liston, JJ (2008a). Leedsichthys des Vaches Noires au peigne fin (translation by M-C Buchy) L’Écho des Falaises (=Ech.des Fal.) No.12: 41-49, 2008 ISSN 1253-6946.
  • Liston, JJ (2008b). A review of the characters of the edentulous pachycormiforms Leedsichthys, Asthenocormus and Martillichthys nov. gen. In: Mesozoic Fishes 4 Homology and Phylogeny, G. Arratia, H.-P. Schultze & M. V. H. Wilson (eds.): pp. 181-198, 10 figs., 1 tab. © 2008 by Verlag Dr. Friedrich Pfeil, München, Germany – ISBN 978-3-89937-080-5.
  • Liston, JJ & Noè, LF (2004). The tail of the Jurassic fish Leedsichthys problematicus (Osteichthyes: Actinopterygii) collected by Alfred Nicholson Leeds - an example of the importance of historical records in palaeontology. Archives of Natural History 31: 236-252.
  • Sloan, C (2004). Big Fish Story. National Geographic Magazine, p.42. 1/9/2004.
  • Liston, JJ (2006). From Glasgow to the Star Pit and Stuttgart: A short journey around the world's longest fish. The Glasgow Naturalist 24: 59-71.
  • Liston, JJ, Steel, L & Challands, TJ (2005). Lured by the Rings: Growth structures in Leedsichthys. In: Poyato-Ariza FJ (ed) Fourth International Meeting on Mesozoic Fishes - Systematics, Homology and Nomenclature, Extended Abstracts. Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad Autónoma de Madrid/UAM Ediciones, Madrid, pp 147-149.
  • Liston, JJ (2005). Homologies amongst the fragments: searching for synapomorphies in shattered skulls. In: Poyato-Ariza FJ (ed) Fourth International Meeting on Mesozoic Fishes - Systematics, Homology and Nomenclature, Extended Abstracts. Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad Autónoma de Madrid/UAM Ediciones, Madrid, pp 141-145.
  • Smith Woodward, A (1889). Preliminary notes on some new and little-known British Jurassic fishes. Geological Magazine Decade 3 Volume 6: 448-455.
  • Smith Woodward, A (1905). A Guide to the Fossil Reptiles, Amphibians, and Fishes in the Department of Geology and Palaeontology of the British Museum (Natural History). Eighth edition. British Museum (Natural History), London. Pp xviii, 110 pages.
  • Martill, DM (1986). The world's largest fish. Geology Today March-April: 61-63.

External links

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Simple English

Leedsichthys
Fossil range: Middle Jurassic
File:Leedsichthys
Leedsichthys with scuba-diver for scale
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Pachycormiformes
Family: Pachycormidae
Genus: Leedsichthys
Species: L. problematicus
Binomial name
Leedsichthys problematicus

Leedsichthys problematicus, ('Leeds fish') was a giant fossil fish of the Jurassic period. It was a pachycormid, a group of extinct ray-finned fishes (Actinopterygii). Leedsichthys is the largest fish known, with an estimated length of up to 16 metres. The Blue Whale is twice as long, at 30 metres, but that is a mammal, not a fish.

Leedsichthys fossils are incomplete, making it impossible to know the exact length. The fossil is named after its discoverer, Alfred Nicholson Leeds, who discovered it before 1886 near Peterborough, England.[1]

Food

Like the worlds biggest fish today, the Whale shark, the Leedsichthys problematicus was a filter feeder, getting its nutrition from plankton. Remains of over 70 individuals have now been found.[1]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Liston J.J. 2004. An overview of the pachycormiform Leedsichthys. In: Arratia G and Tintori A (eds) Mesozoic Fishes 3 - Systematics, Paleoenvironments and Biodiversity. Pfeil, München. 379-390

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