Thursday, July 22, 2010

Run Away!

Big gnashy teeth!I have never worried about bitey fishies when swimming in streams here in Oregon, but that might not have been the case a few million years ago.
The Saber-toothed Salmon of the Miocene to Pliocene (13 to 4 million years ago) of the Pacific Northwest, known as Oncorhynchus (Smilodonichthys) rastrosus to paleontologists, was exceptionally large for a salmon, measuring over 2 meters (6.5 feet) long! It is named for the large canine-like teeth in its upper jaw, presumably used for competition among males during spawning season, much like the hook that forms on modern male spawning sockeye salmon.
The source page, from University of Oregon, is intended to publicize a recent CAT scan of this beastie. I'm kind of blown away by just how delicate the fossil looks. It was prepared in two parts; the photo above is the lower skull. For the scan, the upper and lower parts were set in approximately the correct positions relative to each other, so the final animation gives a much better idea of how the creature's head might have looked in real life. If you click "next" from the animation, there is a nice gallery of 12 images showing the fossils and the scanning process. The scale is in centimeters, and my rough estimate for the image above is that it's 45-50 cm long, or ~18-20 inches.

I wouldn't want to get in the water with that. I can look at salmon and think "I'll bet that would be some good eating," but when a salmon looks at me and thinks the same thing...

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