Dunkleosteus is an extinct placoderm fish that lived some 380 to 360 million years ago, during the late Devonian. It’s called a “placoderm” because its head and thorax was covered in armored plates – this was generally how fish were built in that time.
The largest species, D. terrelli, measured up to 10 meters (33 feet). They were probably slow, but very powerful swimmers; fear-inspiring predators that roamed the coastal areas feasting mostly on free-swimming creatures like arthropods and ammonites. Frequently, fossils of Dunkleosteus are found with boluses of fish bones which seems to indicate that they ate the prey whole, and then regurgitated the bones instead of digesting them.
Dunkleosteus was named in 1956 to honour David Dunkle, then curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
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