The Titanichthys, gigantic armored fish that lived in the seas and oceans of the late Devonian period 380 million years ago, they fed similarly to basking sharks these days, according to a new study conducted by scientists from the University of Bristol and the University of Zurich.
Most likely the animal exceeded five meters in lengthmaking it one of the largest animals in the Devonian. The basking shark swims with its mouth wide open through plankton banks, swallowing the water with everything it contains; a very similar way to that of the Titanichthys, although experts have no evidence in favor of this.
Instead, the team tried to investigate the matter indirectly, using biomechanical analysis to compare the lower jaw of the Titanichthys with those of other species. "We found that the Titanichthys fed on this, showing that its lower jaw was considerably less robust mechanically than those of other placodermal species that fed on large or hard-shelled prey"says the lead author of the study Sam Coatham.
Experts have tested the resilience of the jaws (found in the Moroccan part of the Sahara desert) by practically applying forces, using a technique called Finite Element Analysis (FEA) to evaluate the probability that each jaw would break or bend. The team found that the animal's jaw was very weak and would probably not have been able to withstand the increased stresses associated with their large prey feeding strategies.
"Our methods could be extended to identify other species of the genus in the fossil record and to investigate if there were common factors underlying the evolution and extinction of these species"finally says Coatham.