The big fish that went away ...
For a long time, X. rotundus was known only from a fossilized portion of its distinctive upper bill, says Harry Fierstine of California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.
Now, paleontologists have unearthed a few of the species' vertebrae, which measure up to 14.7 centimeters long and 10.9 cm in diameter. By comparing the X. rotundus dimensions with those of vertebrae from a closely related, extinct European species, Fierstine estimates that the largest of the South Carolina specimens was at least 5.1 meters long--comparable in length to a big alligator. Because the number of vertebrae in ancient billfish species ranged from 24 to 26, X. rotundus could have been even longer. In any case, it's the longest billfish in the fossil record.
One of today's largest billfish is the black marlin, notes Glenda Kelley, a biologist with the International Game Fish Association in Dania Beach, Fla. The organization's rod-and-reel record for that species-a 4.4-m-long, 708-kilogram whopper-was hauled onboard a boat after an epic battle lasting 1 hour and 45 minutes off the coast of Peru in August 1953.--S.P.
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|Title Annotation:||Ancient Times|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Nov 20, 2004|
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