And Now For Something Completely Different - The Fish Eating Fish Fossil Blog

Aspiration fossils are extremely rare occurrences that capture a moment in prehistoric time. The smaller fish fossil is a distant relative of the Herring.
A rarity among fossils, this Aspiration fossil shows the last moments in this predators life.

In researching a recently acquired fish fossil, from jewelry designer, Cheryl Jacobs Designs, in Cumberland, Vancouver Island, I came across some unusual occurrences in the fossil world that are slightly horrifying to behold. Fish eating fish fossils – otherwise known as Aspiration fossils, are examples of a rare and dramatic occurrence which depict the demise of larger predatory fish after they've perished from apparently trying to eat a fish larger than they are capable of swallowing. There is some debate about what sort of event these fossils actually demonstrate.

-A rare occurence of Aspiration fossil, Mioplosus eating a Knightia – a prehistoric relative to the Herring we know today.
A larger predatory fish in the act of feeding upon a smaller Dyplomystus.

These examples provide a unique opportunity for interpretation of fossils of one organism inside another, which is considered by scientists to be essential for understanding predator-prey relationships and the flow of energy from one life form to another in prehistoric ecosystems. Aspiration fossils capture a remarkable ecological event that has been captured in a moment of time for millions of years.

A near cousin to “Fish within a fish” fossils, are the fish within a fish examples of rare fossilization. The most well-known is the Xiphactinus audax discovered by George Sternberg in 1952 and is likely the most photographed fossil worldwide.

The famous Fish Inside a Fish fossil at the Sternberg Museum, Kansas, is considered the most photographed fossil in the world.
Fish Inside another fish fossil - one of the first and largest ever found of these fossilized rarities.

Vancouver Island is rife with Cretaceous period marine fossils. The stretch along the inland Island Highway, from Comox to Campbell River there are exposures of sedimentary rock where highway crews unearthed many specimens during its construction. This formation is part of the Nanaimo Group (Nanaimo and Gulf Islands up to Campbell River) is mostly shale and sandstone that was deposited in the Upper Cretaceous. This geologic formation, which is unique in the world, provides ample evidence of the warm shallow seas that surged here 65-90 million years,

Well preserved Cretaceous ammonite and trilobyte fossils are often found here on Vancovuer Island. While these creatures existed at the bottom of a shallow sea, Tyrannosaurus Rex wandered the landmasses which existed at the time.
Ammonite and Trilobyte fossil specimens at Raven Rock Gallery, in Coombs

On Vancouver Island, by far the most popular type of fossil is the ammonites, for which Vancouver Island has become fairly well-known.

Where larger predatory prehistoric creatures are concerned, the first elasmosaur skeleton was discovered along the shores of the Puntledge River, in the late 1980s, and is now displayed at the Courtenay Museum. The elasmosaur was a long-necked carnivorous sea-going creature with a ravenous appetite and big teeth.

Mosasaurs, which also hung around the Island here, resembled giant crocodilian lizards - several of these have been unearthed on Vancouver Island. On that note, large ammonites have been discovered on Vancouver Island that show the unmistakable chomp marks of the nefarious mosasaur scarring their shells.

The spiny lobster (Linuparus vancouverensis) is often found in cigar-shaped concretions in shale deposits; the Ghost Crab – a species of crab found no-where else in the world but here; many forms of bivalves, which range in size from the clam to the massive Inoceramus vancouverensis. These are sometimes more than a meter across and often show up in ragments in veins of calcite crystal. Other marine fossils found here are often thick-shelled bivalves, and the Idonearca truncate, which can be identified by its unique radiating grooves; the G.veatchii looks like an elephant's trunk when viewed in profile. The Tessarolax distorta, is an unusual snail with five large tentacles protruding from its back, which gives it the distinct impression it is pig-packing a starfish. These are found along the Trent River.

Make sure and check the regulations regarding fossil hunting here on the Island.

That's all for now. Salveo, Dean Unger

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