Mystery for paleontologists: Why giant prehistoric salmon needed such big teeth

(ORDO NEWS) — About 10 million years ago, giant salmon splashed in the coastal waters of the Pacific Ocean, reaching a length of three meters and weighing about 170 kilograms.

Their mouth was filled with sharp and long three-centimeter teeth. It was these teeth that helped California paleontologists find out how these fish lived.

Most likely long teeth served as a filter. Prehistoric salmon, like their modern relatives, fed on plankton. But during the mating season, teeth found a new use – for fighting males and for displaying superiority.

To find out what role the needle-like teeth of giant salmon played in their lives, Julia Sankey studied 51 fossil jaws.

Mystery for paleontologists Why giant prehistoric salmon needed such big teeth 2

The remains of salmon were found in places where rivers flowed millions of years ago, and at the bottom of ancient seas and oceans.

The teeth of salmon that lived in fresh water were much longer than those of saltwater fish. At the same time, the teeth of salmon found on the seafloor looked like they were less commonly used for biting.

Sankey concludes that the giant salmon grew large teeth at the time of spawning, and entered the mouths of the rivers with much longer teeth.

This observation supported the hypothesis that prehistoric salmon, like modern salmonids, underwent significant physiological changes prior to spawning.

They swam freely in the seas and oceans, feeding on plankton, and then increased in size, grew long teeth and spawned upstream the rivers.

One can imagine how three-meter shiny bodies jumped out of Californian rivers and fell into the mouths of cave bears.

Surviving the difficult journey upriver, males engaged in bloody battles for females, biting each other or simply showing their grins.


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