A 10-year-old boy found something that looked similar to a fish inside a stone.
About three years ago, a likely bored ten-year-old boy was touring around a monastery in Colombia when he happened across something unusual: an ancient fish fossil.
But after several years of study, a group of researchers who took great interest in the kid’s findings have discovered it’s far more unusual than any of them first thought. It’s not just a fossil of an ancient fish that lived 90 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous Period, it’s a fossil of Candelarhynchus padillai, an ancient type of “lizard fish” that wasn’t supposed to live anywhere near South America. Or anywhere on that half of the globe.
The research was just published in The Journal of Systematic Palaeontology by a team who formed around the nearly intact specimen after it found its way from the young kid to the closest Paleontological Research Center, and eventually the University of Alberta in Canada.
According to lead author Oksana Vernygora, a PhD student at the University of Alberta, it’s actually not too surprising that such a (we apologize for this) “fish out of water” fossil was found in such a tropical region:
“We see that the tropical region was this melting pot of creatures that lived there. We just need to go and explore.”
Being a member of the prehistoric Dercetis family of bony fish, this lizard fish doesn’t have an exact parallel to any modern fish (that we know of, at least), but going off the fossils, it would have looked vaguely like a barracuda. And it was just as carnivorous, having acted as a dangerous predator to the shellfish and larvae it used to feed on.
The lizard fish fossil itself was found embedded in a flagstone in the Monastery of La Candelaria, a structure dating back to the 17th century. Although obviously, the stones were much older, and it’s thought that the fossil found its way to the monastery after being mined from a nearby quarry.
That quarry, about a half hour away from the monastery, is now drawing a lot of attention from other paleontologists. If one of these fish found its way into South America, then there’s probably a lot more, and plenty of other ancient animals that nobody’s dug up yet.