Ancient Giant Salmon Fought With Large Spike-like Teeth

Posted on October 29, 2016

Ancient salmon with spike-like tooth

An ancient giant salmon inhabited the coastal waters of the Pacific about 5 to 11 million years ago. The salmon reached sizes of 3 to 9 feet (1 to 3 meters). They weighed nearly 400 pounds (177 kg).

Scientists say the teeth likely battled using their large spike shaped teeth. Researchers from California State University have been studying the salmon's unusual teeth. The teeth were over 1 inch (3 cm) long, much larger than modern Pacific salmon teeth.

Dr. Julia Sankey, the leader of the research team, says in a statement, "These giant, spike-toothed salmon were amazing fish. You can picture them getting scooped out of the Proto-Tuolumne River [near Modesto, California] by large bears 5 million years ago. Scientifically, our research on the giant salmon is filling in a gap in our knowledge about how these salmon lived, and specifically, if they developmentally changed prior to migration upriver like modern salmon do today."

Dr. Sankey also says, "This research is also helping paint the picture of this area 5 million years ago for the general public and my college students, and it excites them to think of this giant salmon swimming up our local rivers 5 million years ago!"

The researchers say the evidence indicates the salmon used the teeth when fighting during upriver spawning events. Comparisons of fossils found at different sites found that teeth located at freshwater spawning environments had a larger base and showed clear signs of wear. Teeth from saltwater deposits were much smaller and less worn. The research was presented at this year's meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Ancient salmon in Proto-Tuolumne River


Illustrations: Jacob Brewer/Society of Vertebrate Paleontology