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Scientific Reports — Gut feeling : A glimpse of the ecology of a fish from the Cretaceous period

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When the standard methods used in paleontology are no longer sufficient, techniques like X-ray fluorescence enable in-depth study of ancient fossils. Thanks to this method, researchers [1] from the CNRS, Oxford University, and the SOLEIL synchrotron got up close and personal with the fossilized intestine of a fish from the group of acanthomorphs (spiny-rayed fishes), which includes, for example, today’s tuna, cod, and perch (as well as 16,000 other species). Discovered in Morocco, this fossil was remarkably well conserved. This result, published on May 31, 2018 in the journal Scientific Reports, clarifies the ecology of these spiny-finned fish at the time of their emergence during the Cretaceous period, 100 million years ago. Whereas at that time the spiny-rayed fishes were known for being carnivorous or omnivorous marine creatures, the data collected suggest a freshwater-dwelling fish with a long intestine, which is evidence of an herbivorous diet. Such diversity in the ecological niches occupied by this group is one of the key to their diversification and their evolution.

©P. Gueriau (CNRS) / P. Loubry (MNHN)

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Pierre Gueriau |

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Juliette Dunglas |

Voir en ligne : Exceptional preservation of a Cretaceous intestine provides a glimpse of the early ecological diversity of spiny-rayed fishes (Acanthomorpha, Teleostei), Donald Davesne, Pierre Gueriau, Didier B.Dutheil et Loïc Bertrand. DOI :10.1038/s41598-018-26744-3

[1They work at :

  • Department of Earth Sciences (Oxford University, UK)
  • Institut photonique d’analyse non-destructive européen des matériaux anciens (European Institute for the Non-Destructive Photon-Based Analysis of Ancient Materials – CNRS /Ministère de la Culture/UVSQ, Université Paris-Saclay)
  • Centre de recherche sur la paléobiodiversité et les paléoenvironnements (Paleobiodiversity and Paleoenvironments Research Center – CNRS/MNHN/Sorbonne Université)
  • SOLEIL Synchrotron