Scientists have suggested that the mysterious “alien goldfish,” a strange creature that fossil experts have struggled with for decades, might have been solved. The animal is believed to have been a mollusk. Typhloesus goods died approximately 330m years ago. He was found in Montana’s Bear Gulch Limestone fossil area in the late 1960s. However, it has features such as a body that is roughly 90mm (3.5in), and a fin at its back end. It also lacks an anus or backbone. scientists were confused about where this anatomy belonged on the tree.
The confusion was further exacerbated by the discovery of tiny teeth in Typhloesus skeletal remains that eventually proved to be the remains of the last meal of extinct, tiny, eel-shaped fish known as conodonts. Jean-Bernard Caron (co-author of the research from the Royal Ontario Museum) said that “[ Typhloesus] was kind of an orphan within the tree of Life.” The researchers believe that the confusion could be aided by a toothy structure discovered in the animals’ intestines. Caron stated that “[ Typhloesus] may be a unique group of mollusks that evolved in the carboniferous [period] before eventually becoming extinct.”
Caron and Simon Conway Morris, a colleague from the University of Cambridge, write in the journal biology Letters about how they examined more than a dozen Typhloesus specimens housed at the Royal Ontario Museum. Many of them had never been studied before. The center of many of the specimens revealed evidence of a feeding system similar to that of the toothed ribbon, radula, which can be seen in mollusks. This structure, measuring 4mm long, is found in the foregut of Typhloesus. It’s made up of two rows with about 20 triangular, curved backward teeth.
According to the researchers, it is probable that Typhloesus transformed the structure inside-out and projected it beyond its body to capture prey.
“This is an analogy. The tongue of a dragonfly, for example, captures an insect. It is fast and it brings food in the mouth,” Caron stated. She also said that it was possible Typhloesus ate alga from the seafloor. Caron however stated that the case is still open. “We know it’s a kind of mollusc, but the mollusc is still very odd-looking,” he said. He added that while the team believes the creature might have been a type
gastropod (a family that includes snails, slugs, and others), it is unlikely that everyone will agree. Dr. Luke Parry from the University of Oxford was not involved in the research but welcomed it.
He stated that “The radula they’ve identified looks compelling to my eyes, so this [is] effectively] an ancient paleontological mystery resolved even if the authors cannot place the fossil with much precision within the gastropod tree-of-life.”
Prof Mark Purnell of the Centre for Palaeobiology of the University of Leicester stated that although the radula was convincing, it is not clear whether Typhloesuswas a mollusk. This is because different animal types have developed radula-like features.
He stated that “it is still very strange,”. “[The researchers] found some very intriguing new information but it is not a case where we can definitively know what this strange thing was.”