November 17, 2016 at 2:20 pm #15851
Some of the most commonly found preserved specimens in the fossil record are of fish vertebrae. These elements range greatly in shape, style and detail in order to provide the correct support for different fish species. In some situations, the spines are preserved in their correct location on the vertebra (see picture below of A. Currier’s vertebra). Having evidence that ancient fishes had the similar anatomy as modern fishes helps us understand how fishes evolved and the purpose for these adaptations.
While digging at Montbrook, we have found a vast array of fish vertebrae. Most show the growth rings of the vertebra, allowing scientists to figure out how old a fish was before it was preserved in the sediments. As you can see in the images below, all of the vertebrae are similar in shape, but vary greatly in detail. Each one is intricately designed, but are so well adapted for the aquatic environment that they have not changed much over time.
The following volunteers had great success with fish vertebrae at Montbrook this past June:
I invite you all to chime in with your thoughts on your discoveries!
Attachments:You must be logged in to view attached files.November 17, 2016 at 2:58 pm #15856
Huh. Is there any way to tell the species of fish by the size of vertebrae? Isn’t that one of the ways they do it with mammals? I know that the best way to ID mammals is with teeth, but I thought vertebrae shape was also a helpful diagnostic. Not so much with fishes?
@tmorgan were you able to bring this information about fish verts back to your classroom? I wonder if you can bring in modern fish verts (from a fishing trip??) and then compare, kind of like how Ashley Hall was doing the turkey bone comparison lesson on the Paleontology Education Facebook Group (you know what I’m talking about, @taorminalepore and @gsantos! but here’s the group, too! https://www.facebook.com/groups/paleontologyeducation/)November 17, 2016 at 3:34 pm #15857
I have a small, modern fish vert which may be either from a herring or capelin. I will take a picture and upload it once I return to Florida!November 17, 2016 at 5:47 pm #16010
@llundgren, we can examine the fish vertebra and perhaps deduce the family from which it belongs to, but not much else. We would need to find more elements from the same vertebra to better understand the origin of the bone.November 26, 2016 at 9:01 pm #16057
Taormina (Tara) LeporeParticipant
@llundgren Heck yes – thanks for the shout out! I love the modern-fossil comparative anatomy ideas coming out of these discussions.April 20, 2017 at 3:33 am #22377
Tynessa MorganParticipantApril 24, 2017 at 3:32 pm #22444
@tmorgan I think that’s a great idea! Are your students old enough to read “Your Inner Fish”?July 30, 2017 at 2:58 am #24411
I haven’t had a lab group old enough, but I have used portions of the documentary. I was fortunate enough to get a free one from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. They have several DVDs related to paleontology that can either be streamed or you can request a hard copy for free. If a high school class wanted to take sections of YIF and modify it for 4-8 that could be interesting as an experiment in science communication.August 1, 2017 at 1:56 am #24413
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