Mysterious sea creature revealed

IMAGINE reeling in a fish that has a long snout like our beloved platypus.

While you can't find the strange sea creature anymore, scientists think it might just be one of the weirdest they've came across.

When they reconstructed fossils they discovered, the bizarre looking ancient fish looks like and might have behaved like the Australian animal.

The fossils, which belongs to an extinct group called the placoderms, were first discovered in 1980 in limestone around Lake Burrinjuck in New South Wales.

The area contains some of the world's earliest known reef fish fauna.

Gavin Young, who has spent more than 50 years researching fossil fish from the lake, said the find was certainly the weirdest and most specialised example.

A platypus like fish has been discovered
A platypus like fish has been discovered

He originally found the first two specimens but the sensitive snout region was missing.

"When we saw the dense sensory tubes on another broken snout, we immediately thought of the local platypus," he said.

"I am very gratified there is finally an accurate reconstruction of this strange skull."

"This is a fossil site that just keeps giving."

Scientist have discovered more than 70 species of fish from the ancient coral reef ecosystem.

"Clearly this ancient reef was a thriving hotspot for evolution, as are the coral reefs of more recent times," Dr Young said.

Palaeontologists from Flinders University and Canberra's Australian National University have been now been able to reconstruct the fossils and found the fish had a long bill extending out in front of its eyes.

"This was one strange looking fish," said study author Benedict King.

"The eyes were on top of the head, and the nostrils came out of the eye sockets.

"There was this long snout at the front, and the jaws were positioned very far forward."

The fossil, named Brindabellaspis after the nearby Brindabella Ranges, had another surprise - a unique sensory system on the snout which turned out to be a modified form of the pressure sensor system found in other fish.

"We suspect that this animal was a bottom-dweller," said Professor John Long.

"We imagine it used the bill to search for prey, somewhat like a platypus, while the eyes on top of the head looked out for danger from above."

Prof Long said while the fossil re-examination filled in the gaps, it was not in a way anyone expected.

"Despite this being one of the earliest well-known ecosystems including many species of fish, the inhabitants of this ancient reef were clearly not in any way primitive," he said.

"The new findings show that they were highly adapted and specialised in their own right."

A string of recent discoveries from the Lake Burrinjuck fossil site have included evidence for electroreception, new information on the evolution of jaws and a tiny skull that bridges the gap between the two major divisions of the bony fish.

Martin Rücklin of Holland said the Lake Burrinjuck area kept producing exciting discoveries.

"Brindabellaspis is one of the most important placoderms due to its excellent preservation, so this new information on its anatomy is crucial deciphering of the phylogenetic relationships of early jawed vertebrates," he said.

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