Candelarhynchus padillai: New Species of Lizardfish, 90 Million Years Old

Dubbed Candelarhynchus padillai, the new species is the first fossil ‘lizardfish’ from the Cretaceous period ever found in Colombia and tropical South America.“It is rare to find such a complete fossil of a fish from this moment in the Cretaceous period,” said lead author Oksana Vernygora, a Ph.D. student at the University of Alberta.“Deepwater fish are difficult to recover, as well as those from environments with fast flowing waters.”The discovery contributes to the growing and important body of literature on the fossil record in the tropics.“The tropics worldwide are hotspots of diversity,” said co-author Javier Luque, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Alberta.

“Interestingly, we know a great deal about modern biodiversity in these areas, but the fossil record is poorly understood in comparison. This adds another piece to that puzzle.”“And the importance of understanding fossil fish is often underestimated,” Vernygora added.“Often we think, we have fish now, we had fish then, and we’ll likely have fish in the future. But the importance of fish is just that.”“We can see how fish have changed as their environments have changed throughout history.”“Studying fish diversity gives us amazing predicting power for the future — especially as we start to see the effects of climate change.”The discovery was made with the unlikely assistance of a young tourist, visiting the Monastery of La Candelaria, near the town of Ráquira Boyacá, Colombia.“A kid was walking into the monastery during a tour when he noticed the shape of a fish in flagstones on the ground,” Luque said.“He took a photo and, a few days later, showed it to staff at the Centro de Investigaciones Paleontologicas, a local museum with whom we collaborate to protect and study fossil findings from the region.”“Staff at the center recognized the image as a fossil fish right away and shared the finding with us.”

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