…from the Pikes Peak Courier View
“Wired Science has posted their top fossil finds of 2010 and a Triebold Paleontology, Inc. discovery is right at the top of the list.
Bonnerichthys gladius was one of the forgotten fossil specimens “discovered” this year thanks to Dinosaur Resource Center curator and TPI paleontologist Anthony Maltese. This giant planktivorous bony fish has spent part of the last 85 million years as an unknown specimen in the collections at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum.
Maltese had been attending classes at University of Kansas and working at the Natural History Museum years ago when he saw the specimen, thought to be a giant swordfish-like animal, languishing in storage. “I had hoped to be able to look at the specimen up close one day and had that chance this year,” Maltese said.
Fish such as B. gladius, identified as large-bodied suspension feeders (planktivores), had been absent from the fossil record in Mesozoic marine environments. This important discovery fills another missing piece of fossil evolution from the days of the dinosaurs.
Maltese, along with Mike Triebold, owner of Triebold Paleontology, Inc. in Woodland Park, have actively been hunting fossils in the western Kansas area for many years. Finding and identifying fish fossils is one of their passions. Their fossil prep room is littered with many different types of fossil fish.
Maltese convinced Triebold to bring the forgotten specimen to TPI for preparation. TPI and KU have a working relationship preparing, molding and mounting specimens.
“We were doing work on a closely related fish, the Protosphyraena,” Maltese said. “I thought the KU fossil would be a good specimen to prepare for scientific comparison.”
As Maltese was preparing the specimen he noticed that there was no sword-like rostrum or teeth present in the fossil, two traits found in Protosphyraena. “I knew that this was strange and different,” he recalled. “At this point I thought the fish must have strained its meals from the waters of the Western Interior Seaway of Kansas, as it obviously didn’t eat other fish due to its lack of teeth.”
Maltese then showed the unusual fossil to Matt Friedman, a fellow paleontologist. Friedman, visiting from the University of Chicago, saw the similarities to the Pachychormid fish he had been studying from both North America and the Jurassic of Europe. The long lost fish had been rediscovered! A subsequent paper was published in Science Magazine in February 2010 detailing the discovery.
The specimen has been returned to the collections at KU. Maltese and Triebold have since identified a specimen in the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center collection as Bonnerichthys and that specimen is on exhibit at the Woodland Park museum. For more information on fossils in the RMDRC collection, visit www.rmdrc.com or www.trieboldpaleontology.com. The museum is located at 201 S. Fairview in Woodland Park.”