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‘Alien’ fish had one of the most extreme underbites on record, 365 million-year-old

A recent discovery in the world of paleontology has shed light on an ancient fish fossil, suggesting it possesses one of the most extreme underbites in nature.

Initially, researchers believed the fish, known as Alienacanthus, had long fin spines. However, further analysis revealed that these “spines” were actually an elongated lower jaw with teeth, making it one of the oldest and longest underbites ever recorded. Lead researcher Melina Jobbins clarified that Alienacanthus doesn’t have unusual fin spines but rather a distinctive lower jaw.

Alienacanthus lived during the Devonian period when Earth’s landmasses were divided into two supercontinents. Fossil discoveries in Poland and Morocco indicate that Alienacanthus likely migrated across oceans despite fluctuations in sea levels.

To delve deeper into this peculiar fish, scientists examined well-preserved skulls found in Morocco. They found that the long protrusion from the fish’s head was, in fact, its lower jaw, which was twice the size of its skull.

Unlike other fish of its time, Alienacanthus had upper jaws that could move independently, likely to accommodate its lengthy lower jaw. This unique jaw structure led researchers to speculate about its feeding behavior, suggesting that its backward-pointing teeth may have been used to trap live prey.

Comparisons with modern species, such as the halfbeak known for its prominent underbite, highlight the diversity of jaw forms during the Late Devonian period.

With the misconception about Alienacanthus’s fin spines cleared up, scientists are now eager to study its jaw mechanics and overall body structure in greater detail.

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