Bothriolepis Canadensis
    Late Devonian, Famennian Stage
    Escuminac Formation, Miguasha, Gaspe Peninsula, Quebec, Canada

    The name Bothriolepis means "pitted scale" after the fantastic texture of the bony plating that covered the body of this prehistoric freshwater placoderm (armored fish), the first jawed vertebrates to appear on Earth. When first discovered in 1842 it was mistaken for a tortoise, but was soon re-identified as a placoderm, easily identified today from its boxy body and spine-like pectoral fins. The head is fused to the thoracic shield, and it had a pair of eye and nostril openings on the upper side, and one on the lower for the mouth; it was a bottom feeder of brackish waters, although due to the remains found in the fossil record, it is presumed also to have been able to inhabit salt water. With such a bulky and heavy body, the long pectoral fins were essential to lift itself from the bottom of the water. It is further distinguished by the fact that in addition to the usual gills, it developed a pair of pouches off the esophagus which it has been speculated could function as lungs; this characteristic has made the bothriolepis a much-debated species in creationism arguments, but anatomical evidence gleaned from vertical and horizontal slicing of specimens has given strong weight to the evolutionary view. The present example measures 4 3/8 x 5¼ inches and exhibits some of the typical cracking to the carapace, crushed beneath the weight of sediment that accumulated on top of it, but is otherwise beautifully preserved, presented in a recess in the grey stone matrix, measuring 9½ x 9 1/8 x 2 inches. The Bothriolepis was the first fish recovered from the now-famous fossil beds of Minguasha National Park, one of the world's most outstanding records of the Devonian Period, known as the "Age of Fishes", and a UNESCO world heritage site since 1999.

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    Auction Dates
    January, 2009
    18th Sunday
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