dinosaur museum

Megalocoelacanthus dobiei

pronounced (mega-low-see-lo-can-thus doe-bee-eye)

Discovery Location:  Lane County, Kansas
Discovered by:  Glenn Rockers
Diet:  Carnivore
Period:  Late Cretaceous
Age:  85 million years old
Formation:  Niobrara Chalk
Length:  12 ft
Location of Original Specimen:  American Museum of Natural History, New York City, New York

Coelacanths are commonly referred to as “living fossils”, thought to have gone extinct with the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous period. This all changed in 1938 when a live coelacanth was caught in the waters of the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa. In the 1980’s a second population was discovered deep in the waters off of Indonesia.

In 1994, coelacanths were also recognized in the sediments of the late Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway of Alabama, Georgia and New Jersey. A new genus, Megalocoelacanthus dobiei, was named. Recently, Megalocoelacanthus was also discovered in the Niobrara Chalk of western Kansas. In fact, the only two specimens so far discovered were collected by our staff and prepared in the RMDRC lab. A 3-dimensional reconstruction is being prepared from these casts. This isolated left lower jaw is the only original material of this very rare fish on public display anywhere in the world.

Modern coelacanths have sharp teeth and eat a variety of prey, with large females reaching lengths up to 6 feet and giving birth to live young. Males tend to be smaller, only reaching 4 ½ feet long. Megalocoelacanthus seemed to live very differently, with some scientists hypothesizing it was a filter feeder totally lacking teeth. This giant fish was twice the length of modern coelacanths.

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