Growing up to 33 feet long and weighing nearly 4 tons, a massive predator once roamed the waters of what is now Lake Erie 350 million years ago. Back in the late Devonian period when Lake Erie was part of a saltwater ocean, the armored Dunkleosteus feasted on sharks with jaws that create as much as 1,100 pounds of pressure per square inch.  The species was so feroious, scientists deemed it to be a “hypercarnivorius apex predator”, or quite simply the baddest fish in the sea.

Unfortunately, newer and faster species eventually beat the hulking fish in the one-up game of evolution, and the Dunkleosteus was resigned to history. However, according to Fox News, their bones are still useful. Geologist Scott McKenzie of Mercyhurst University is currently excavating a site somewhere near Lake Erie that holds a trove of Dunkleosteus bones. Due to an agreement with the landowners, the location remains a secret.

The process is a slow one. Another provision of the agreement restricts McKenzie to surface collection and he’ll have to rely on rain and wind to do most of his work.

“It’s eroding slowly — much too slowly for my taste,” said McKenzie. The end goal is to eventually have bones excavated and included as part of a display on the ancient species. The researcher remains in awe of the animal.

“If you caught him on a rod and reel, you’d be in for the fight of a lifetime. And if you fell in, heaven help you because no one else could help you,” he said. Scientists believe that the creature was capable of literally sucking in prey through the intense pressure caused by opening its mouth. Its thickly armored head made it a untouchable swimming tank, but it also made it slow.

The bony plates on the Dunkleosteus are not unlike the ones found on the modern sturgeon. Sturgeons can be traced back to 200 million years ago and succeeded where the lumbering giants failed in survival of the fittest.

Image from Carly Lesser & Art Drauglis (Carly & Art) on the flickr Creative Commons

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3 thoughts on “Lake Erie Holds Bones of Ancient Underwater Predator

  1. ” And if you fell in, heaven help you because no one else could help you,” he said. Its funny to hear a scientist talk about an animal that evolved, speak of a Creator and a Heaven. Im glad he is acknowleding Heaven as the source of the most powerful help.

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