BIO 203


 Dunkleosteus terrelli, an armored fish, was not the average marine or fresh water animal. D. terrelli was a successful predator in the ocean during the Late Devonian period (Anderson et al., 2010).  Due to its size and powerful armored body it was rare if D. terrelli was ever a prey to another predator.  It has been predicted that the body of D. terrelli was up to 25 feet long (Janvier & Maisey, 1996).  Since only fossils of D. terrelli skull have been found only predictions have been made about its giant body size.



Through many studies involving mechanical simulations of the jaw of D. terrelli it was determined that this bite force is the most powerful among animals (Anderson & Westneat, 2009).  The mixture of having the strongest bite and a rather large expansion of the jaw allowed for D. terrelli to capture any organism that lived in its ecosystem.  Fossils have provided evidence to predict that D. terrelli preyed on organisms that were much larger than it.  The tremendous bite of this prehistoric fish made it a top predator among its ecosystem placing it at the very top of its food chain.   The bladed jaws gave D. terrelli a huge advantage of being able to completely bite an organism in half (Williams, 2007).  Aside from eating anything that crossed its path the D. terrelli ate smaller things like large mollusks or even crustaceans.  It's even possible that D. terrelli ate smaller fish that was comparable to a clown fish. The bladed jaw of D. terrelli is very comparable to a modern day shark’s teeth.  Amazingly, recent studies have found that D. terrelli was capable of biting a shark completely in half (Pastino, 2010).

When specific organisms taxa are extinct researchers rely on fossils to create hypotheses for their ecosystems.  There have been various fossils of D. terrelli found, all providing clear evidence of a powerful  bite force overpowering its prey.  Visit our habitat page for a map of various places where D. terrelli fossils have been found! There has also been evidence found of bite marks on other placoderms that lived in the same ecosystem as D. terrelli.  This explains that D. terrelli preyed on other armored animals as well (Britt, 2006).


If you would like to learn more interesting facts about the D. terrelli, please visit our facts page!




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