Triassic Fish Fossil Unearthed by Construction Workers

The near perfectly preserved fossil of a large predatory fish, discovered by construction workers building a relief road in Bulgaria has been identified as a new type of Triassic fish.  The fossil, which measures 58 centimetres long, was first unearthed last December and is amongst a number of fossil discoveries that have come to light as the 130 million Euro Sofia relief road project continues.

The relief road, designed to help ease traffic flows in western Bulgaria is known as the Lyulin highway, the building commenced four years ago and as the excavations have pressed on, so a number of interesting fossil finds have been made.  Zoologists and palaeontologists at the Pernik Regional History Museum, have concluded that the fossil represents an unknown species of Mesozoic predatory fish.  The rock containing the rare fossil has been dated to the Late Triassic, making this fish more than 200 million years old.  Very few Triassic vertebrate fossils are known from this part of eastern Europe, although the highway construction teams have found a number of invertebrate specimens, including ammonites and ancient sea urchins.

Much of this area of Bulgaria was covered by an immense lake during the Triassic, it seems likely that the fish found itself in an isolated pool of water and perished as the pool dried up.  The specimen is going to be put on display at the Pernik Regional History Museum.

The Bulgarian Fish Fossil

Picture Credit: BTA

The head of the fish can be seen in the right of the picture, with the beautifully preserved pectoral fins just in front of the gill covers.  A black ruler has been placed next to the fossil to provide a scale.

In total, more than thirty other fish fossils have been found, but most are only fragmentary and date from a much more recent time (Cenozoic).  A spokesperson for the museum commented that the Bulgarian authorities were going to ask foreign palaeontologists for help with the study of these fossils as local museums did not really have the specialists in such ancient species.

It may be strange to think of the fish fossils being found in this part of Bulgaria, an area famous for its mountainous terrain, but 200 million years ago, this part of Europe was underwater and the fossil fish being found as the highway is built are testament to the geological forces that have acted upon the terrain and landscape.

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