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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fossil range: Late Devonian
3D model of Materpiscis
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Placodermi
Order: Ptyctodontida
Family: Ptyctodontidae
Genus: Materpiscis
Binomial name
M. attenboroughi
Long, Trinajstic, Young, and Senden, 2008

Materpiscis (Latin for mother fish) is a genus of ptyctodontid placoderm (a class of extinct, superficially shark-like fishes) from the Late Devonian (about 380 million years ago) located at the Gogo Formation of Western Australia. Known from only one specimen, it is unique in having an unborn embryo present inside Materpiscis, and with remarkable preservation of a mineralised placental feeding structure (umbilical cord). This makes Materpiscis the oldest known vertebrate to show viviparity, or giving birth to live young.



The fossil specimen was found in the Kimberley area of northern Western Australia by Lindsay Hatcher during the 2005 expedition to the Gogo led by John Long of Museum Victoria. Fossils from the Gogo Formation are preserved in limestone nodules, so dilute acetic acid is used to dissolve the surrounding limestone and reveal the fossil.[1]

Anatomy and physiology

Fossilised embryo features
Model of Materpiscis on display at Museum Victoria, Australia

Examination of the tail section of the Materpiscis specimen led to the discovery of the partially ossified skeleton of a juvenile Materpiscis and the mineralised umbilical cord. The team published their findings in 2008.[2]

Materpiscis would have been about 11 inches (28 cm) long and had powerful crushing tooth plates to grind up its prey, possibly hard shelled invertebrates like clams or corals.[3]

The ptyctodontid fishes are the only group of placoderms to display sexual dimorphism, where males have clasping organs and females have smooth pelvic fin bases. It had long been suspected that they reproduced using internal fertilisation, but finding fossilised embryos inside both Materpiscis and in a similar form also from Gogo, Austroptyctodus, proved the deduction was true.

Materpiscis attenboroughi was selected as one of "The Top 10 New Species" described in 2008 by The International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University and an international committee of taxonomists.[4]


The species was named Materpiscis attenboroughi in honour of David Attenborough who first drew attention to the significance of the Gogo fish sites in his 1979 series Life on Earth.[5]

In popular culture

See also

Other important fossil fishes from the Devonian period:




Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Materpiscis attenboroughi


Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Classis: †Placodermi
Ordo: Ptyctodontida
Family: Ptyctodontidae
Genus: Materpiscis
Species: Materpiscis attenboroughi


Materpiscis attenboroughi Long et al., 2008

Vernacular names

中文: 艾登堡魚母


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