The sea can be a wild and frightening place.
Today’s anglers experience nothing close to the danger posed by the creepy, scary, downright-crazy, now-extinct fish of the distant past.
Any angler knows a multitude of creepy species live underwater. After all, angler fish, sturgeon, and barracuda look like they could have easily been the subject of a cheap horror flick.
Aquatic ecosystems of long ago were so wild and creepy, they could easily be mistaken as extraterrestrial. Many of the strangest, monstrous sea creatures are now extinct.
Check out the slideshow to see the craziest extinct fish ever to swim Earth’s waters:
This horrifying relative of modern-day sharks shared an important characteristic with them: It continued to grow new teeth throughout its lifetime. Unlike sharks, however, the helicopron didn’t shed its old teeth. Teeth were instead pushed forward from its lower jaw in a spiral pattern as larger teeth appeared in the back row. This fish swam in the oceans of the late Carboniferous 280 million years ago and went extinct during the early Triassic, about 225 million years ago.
Pteraspis means “wing shield,” and they swam in waters of what are now Great Britain and Belgium during the Devonian period. The fish lacked fins and the fronts of their bodies were covered in armored plating and boasted stiff spikes on their backs.
Experts believe this fish has the world’s oldest-known face. It is the most primitive known fossil with the same jawbones as modern-day bony fishes and land vertebrates, including humans. The fossil, discovered in China, has a distinctive three-bone system still used by chewing vertebrates today: a lower jawbone, two upper jaw bones, and the maxilla, which holds the canine and cheek teeth.
The Stethacanthus genus of ancient sharks swam the seas around Europe and North America until its extinction 320 million years ago. Named for the distinctive anvil-shaped first dorsal fin and spine displayed by mature males, Stethacanthus’ crests may have played a role in mating rituals, aided in clamping to the belly of larger marine animals, or used to frighten potential predators.
The prehistoric Dunkleosteus were among the largest arthrodire placoderms to have ever lived. It existed during the Late Devonian period, about 380-360 million years ago, and fossils have been discovered in in waters near North America, Poland, Belgium, and Morocco. The slow but powerful swimmers may have also been among the first vertebrates to internalize egg fertilization, as seen in some modern sharks.
This fish is ancestor to crappie, bass, perch, and most game fish. It is the earliest-known bony fish and lived during the Late Silurian, 419 million years ago. The oldest-known fossil specimen of the fish was found just off the shores of China.
This is the largest predatory fish of all time. Megalodon fossils place the shark relative at more than 67 feet long. The fish was so big, it likely preyed primarily on large marine animals, like the great white shark, which it killed with its enormous triangular teeth. The oceans must have been a frightening place when Megalodon was around.
It may look like a bluefin tuna, but Leedsichthys Problematicus was the largest fish ever to swim the Earth’s waters. Based off fossils found near Britain, France, Germany, and Chile, the plankton eaters reached lengths exceeding 52 feet. Sadly, Problematicus went extinct 150 million years ago.
Experts think the Tiktaalik Roseae could possibly be a missing link between prehistoric aquatic and land animals. Its fins boasted basic wrist bones and simple rays reminiscent of fingers. It also had spiracles on the top of the head, which suggest the creature had primitive lungs as well as gills.
This specimen may actually be a reptile, but it could sure inspire one heck of a fisherman’s tale. The Dearcmhara Shawcrossi was part of an extinct group of aquatic animals, the ichthyosaurs, which lived during the early to middle Jurassic period between 250 million and 90 million years ago. With its tooth-filled jaws and dolphin-like flippers, the Dearcmhara Shawcrossi grew to reach 14 feet long and was a skilled swimmer throughout waters neighboring Scotland. This guy could even scare the living daylights out of the Loch Ness Monster.
If you liked this slide show, you’re sure to love this one.