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Archive for Thursday, February 18, 2010

KU researchers gain new insights from fossil that KU has had for decades

The fish Bonnerichthys swam in the prehistoric seas between 66 million and 172 million years ago. The toothless plankton-eater used Its large mouth to gulp as much water as possible through its gills. Some members of the species were estimated to grow up to 27 feet long.

The fish Bonnerichthys swam in the prehistoric seas between 66 million and 172 million years ago. The toothless plankton-eater used Its large mouth to gulp as much water as possible through its gills. Some members of the species were estimated to grow up to 27 feet long.

February 18, 2010

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A large fish fossil that sat at Kansas University for decades has provided new insight into the history of modern-day large plankton-eaters.

KU researchers joined other scientists from across the globe with similar specimens in reporting their findings in this week’s Science magazine.

The toothless, plankton-eating fish, estimated to reach lengths of up to 27 feet, is related to similar modern-day fish like the basking shark.

KU’s specimen joins similar ones found in Japan, England and other places, indicating the fish swam all over the world. That includes Kansas, during a period when the state was resting under an ocean of salt water.

Larry Martin, KU’s director of vertebrate paleontology, said KU had the 80-million-year-old fossil — the head, jaw and some fins — for decades without recognizing its significance.

“It’s about as complete a fossil as you’ll find for this kind of fish,” said Martin, adding that most of the fish was made of cartilage and wasn’t preserved.

The new group of fish is named Bonnerichthys after the Marion Bonner family from Leoti, Kan., which found the fossil years ago in the chalk deposits of Logan County in Western Kansas.

Orville Bonner, the oldest of eight children in the fossil-finding family, lives in Lawrence today. He had worked with fossils for KU — including the fossil that now bears his family name — before retiring in 1997.

“I knew that this was something very strange,” Bonner said, when his family found it decades ago.

He recalled especially the large, bony eye sockets of the fish.

“You could fit a volleyball in there,” he said.

The Bonner family worked for years finding fossils, providing specimens for KU and the Sternberg Museum in Hays. Bonner remembered how his father would search for fossils during the day and operate a movie theater at night.

The family would often sell the fossils, but usually only generated enough to get gas money to go back out to try and find some more.

Bonner said he was honored to have the family name attached to the fish, and remembered the family’s joy after his father and brother found it.

“It’s what it’s all about,” Bonner said. “You could find something that nobody’s ever seen before. That’s what keeps you going.”

Researchers had previously thought the oceans were devoid of this type of large fish during the period that these fossils date to — between 66 and 172 million years ago. The fish is believed to have gone extinct at the same time the dinosaurs did.

“Discovery isn’t the first time you find something, it’s the first time you realize what you’ve found,” Martin said.

Comments

cthulhu_4_president 4 years, 1 month ago

Given the scientific underpinnigs of this find, I find it deliciously awesome that the ad I see on the side of the article has Ben Stein on it.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1091617/

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matix 4 years, 1 month ago

DTR, Yep, Chuck's still in business. North of Scott City on K83. Cool place. I'm from Leoti and my Grandma used to take us fossil hunting in Logan Co back in the day. I remember her saying she used to go fossil hunting when she was young. Maybe with the Bonners(?). This was before the wackos took over Christianity. She was a devout Presbyterian but also a true fan of Science. Definitely believed dinosaurs existed 100's of millions of years before man. If you're in the area, stop by Chuck Bonner's Keystone Gallery http://www.keystonegallery.com/ Also around there: Monument Rocks (within a few miles) and Castle Rock (a bit further east). You can easily find shark teeth in either place. Scott Lake is also pretty cool. Beautiful, barren country.

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estespark 4 years, 1 month ago

Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.

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autie 4 years, 1 month ago

georgiahawk, dust off the red dirt and just take it on faith....oh lord did I just say that? Like from Dick Cheney...that's funny right there. No sir, but I will tell you that my dog told me that the earth was in excess of 4 billion years old. And if I can't trust my own dog, who can I trust?

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Charlie Sabotage 4 years, 1 month ago

looks like that fishy is hitting a high note and the scuba guy is interpretive water dancing to his melody. who cares how old fish guy is, he apparently sings a sweet tune

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BrianR 4 years, 1 month ago

They can't play baseball, They don't wear sweaters, There not good dancers, They don't play drums.

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georgiahawk 4 years, 1 month ago

autie, may the American Taliban hunt you down and flogg you for your "ain't real" comment. Do you have any proof of what you say? Before you get started on any of your "scientific evidence" crapola, do you have any real proof? Something I can trust, like from Dick Cheney or someone else I can trust?

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autie 4 years, 1 month ago

I'd sure like to get one of them on my trot line...I don't reckon I'd want to noodle one though. I might end up like that Jonah fella nightmare is talking about....

Hey you other guys....that 6000 year thing, that story ain't real neither.

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lawrenceRezident 4 years, 1 month ago

Fossils don't exist in real life. God says so!

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yourworstnightmare 4 years, 1 month ago

Maybe this was the whale that swallowed Jonah.

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ranger73 4 years, 1 month ago

Wow that looks just like the fish on the wall of the garage that sings to me. Must be related species. Not to mention a very happy fish.

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beatrice 4 years, 1 month ago

I didn't know man had scuba equipment that allowed people to swim with the big fish 66 - 172 million years ago. Cool.

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Paul R Getto 4 years, 1 month ago

Great story; science marches on. It's fun to see the interpretations and reinterpretations over the decades and even centuries as we learn more about our past and where we came from. Since we evolved from the fish line a 'while back' it's neat to see one of our ancestors getting well-deserved publicity.

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notjustyoureverydayaveragetrol 4 years, 1 month ago

The KU natural history museum is a top notch place, I highly recommend visiting it, although I do wish that they would get some new displays from time to time.

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gatekeeper 4 years, 1 month ago

georgiahawk - according to lawrenceguy and barry, KU is just an elitist, liberal, brain washing institution that can't be trusted and should be shut down. KU is just spreading more elitist, liberal lies about the age of the earth. Thank goodness for conservative Christian republicans that put everyone in their place and tell us how scientists are wrong. This fossil was probably planted by the devil to trick us.

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jgaznative 4 years, 1 month ago

6000 years cannot be right, georgiahawk. And that picture proves man evolved from plankton.

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Flap Doodle 4 years, 1 month ago

That there is 1 big-mouthed fish.

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georgiahawk 4 years, 1 month ago

This story does not sound right (or perhaps not right enough). The earth has only been around 6000 years! Where are they getting their "scientific" numbers? Does the Kansas legislature know that KU is promoting godless philosophies, can't they do something about this? Will someone think of the children?

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down_the_river 4 years, 1 month ago

Hooray for the Bonners, what a great fossil story. For more description of the discovery, check out the account in the Wichita Eagle: www.kansas.com/news/featured/story/11...>

Is Chuck Bonner's Keystone gallery still alive out in the middle of nowhere?

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SirReal 4 years, 1 month ago

“Discovery isn’t the first time you find something, it’s the first time you realize what you’ve found,” Martin said. Great Quote and props to the Bonner family. Interesting article.

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