The Discovery of Fossil Fish Pushes Back the Origin of Jaws and Teeth

Our jaws and teeth are extraordinarily ancient structures. Adaptations that paleontologists have followed back to our distant fishy ancestors who thrived in the waters, some 425 million years ago, are older than dinosaurs, older than arms and legs, and older than trees. However, the discovery of a cache of vertebrates in China that had been painstakingly preserved has led to the establishment of a new date for the first record of jaws and teeth. Early vertebrates found in the aquarium include some of the earliest fossil fish with paired appendages.

The Discovery of Fossil Fish Pushes Back the Origin of Jaws and Teeth436 Million Years Old Fossil Fish

The fossils are approximately 436 million years old and were found in the tank. Researchers have argued about when the first bites appeared. Molecular studies based on genetic change estimates suggest that the first jaws and teeth emerged around 450 million years ago. Until previously, the oldest fossil fish of jawed vertebrates—or gnathostomes—dated to around 425 million years ago, representing a huge gap. The new fossils from South China, as described by the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology researcher Min Zhu, sit in the heart of this gap and offer a surprising look at a pivotal period in evolutionary history.

The discovered fossil fish constitute a “Konservat-Lagerstätte,” or a fossil location that records intricate features of ancient organisms that are typically lost in other settings, according to paleontologists. The fish discovered in this case, according to Zhu and co-authors, were minuscule and had delicate bones. That means these fish were unlikely to become fossils unless they were buried soon and protected from scavengers who would otherwise eat them.

The fact that such fish required a rare stroke of luck, likely explains the disparity between the molecular estimate and the fossil record. Having such complete fossils also allows paleontologists to determine to whom all the weird parts and pieces from such old waters belonged.

Galeaspid, Xiushanosteus, and More

The collection described by Zhu and colleagues represents a variety of extremely early fish, not all of which possessed jaws. One of the most well-preserved fossil fish is that of a jawless fish called a galeaspid, which is essentially a biological Roomba with a tail. The bones of this animal’s robust skull shield have long been known, but new South China fossils reveal the shape of the soft flesh beneath those bones. The most frequent armored fish in the collection is the Xiushanosteus, an armored fish with jaws only about an inch long. Even more shocking is the discovery of Fanjingshania Renovata, a new, ancient relative of sharks and cartilaginous fish that challenges paleontologists’ understanding of how sharks, bony fish, and extinct groups like placoderms developed.

Archaeological Mystery – Where Exactly Is Attila the Hun’s Tomb?

Attila the Hun, the warlord who invaded and ravaged both the eastern and western halves of the Roman Empire, passed away on his wedding night at the age of 58. To this day, it is a matter of debate whether the Hun ruler perished of natural causes, or whether he met his demise at the hands of his new wife, Ildico. To add even more mystery to an already complicated plot, nobody really knows where Attila was buried because his tomb has never been found.

Archaeological Mystery - Where Exactly Is Attila the Hun’s Tomb?

Attila the Hun Was Feared by the Romans

Attila was born in the Pannonian steppe during the late 4th century and ruled the Huns until his passing in 453 A.D. He was sometimes referred to as “Flagellum Dei,” which translated from Latin means “scourge of God” or “whip of God.” Although he threatened to sack Rome and Constantinople, he never actually attacked the two largest cities in the Roman Empire. Instead, he forced emperors to pay him large amounts of gold in exchange for peace treaties that didn’t always last long.

While much is known about Atilla the Hun’s warmongering days, very little is known about his final resting place. In fact, according to Zsófia Masek, a post-doctoral researcher of archaeology at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, there is only one surviving written source about his funeral — a sixth-century book written by Jordanes titled Getica.

The Hun Ruler Had an Elaborate Funeral

According to the book, Attila was buried in a triple coffin. The innermost was crafted of gold, the second was made of silver, and the outermost was forged of iron. According to Jordanes, the gold and silver were a symbol of the wealth accumulated by the Hun ruler while the iron signified his people’s military might.

Jordanes adds that servants who had built the tomb were eliminated in an attempt to keep its location secret. He also wrote that Attila the Hun was put to rest with captured enemy weapons, gems, and various ornaments.

Where Is His Tomb?

The Great Hungarian Plain

Many historians believe the great Hun warlord is resting somewhere on the Hungarian Puszta, also known as the Great Hungarian Plain. Their theory is built on the fact that Attila had made his headquarters in the region. Some claim that the tomb is next to a river while others defend the theory that the Hun ruler had a riverbed burial.

It’s also possible that Attila the Hun is buried in the Serbian or Romanian parts of the Great Hungarian Plain. Furthermore, it’s uncertain whether anything remains of the tomb. While some scholars are optimistic about discovering his burial site, others aren’t so confident about it. One thing is certain, this archaeological mystery will continue to baffle historians.