Picture of a protosphyraena

In 2006 amateur fossil hunters discovered a well-preserved Protosphyraena snout in Australia, which is the first time the fish has been found south of the Equator. It is also one of the earliest known examples of Protosphyraena.

Copyright © MMVII NGHT, Inc.

Fast Facts

Length, 8 ft (2.4 m)
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man

Please add a "relative" entry to your dictionary.

Protosphyraena was a medium-size predatory fish of the Late Cretaceous seas with a long swordlike snout and bladelike teeth positioned to stab fleeing prey. What's more, one of these ancient fish had long, bony pectoral fins with leading edges serrated like saw blades. While the exact purpose of these sawlike fins is a matter of scientific debate, no doubt this fish was armed with lots of potentially offensive weaponry.

Fully grown adult Protosphyraena averaged between six and nine feet (two and three meters) long, an unremarkable stature in oceans ruled by mosasaurs and plesiosaurs that grew more than 35 feet (11 meters) long.

Complete skeletons of Protosphyraena are rare, which may suggests that either scavengers devoured them or the corpses drifted as they decayed and fell apart. Like some Late Cretaceous sea monsters, Protosphyraenamost likely went extinct 65 million years ago.

Prehistoric Features

  • Picture of carnotaurus

    Bizarre Dinosaurs

    A bizarre gallery of Mesozoic monsters prompts John Updike to ask: What has evolution wrought?

  • Picture of dimorphodon flying across the forest in a scene from the movie Flying Monsters 3D

    Flying Monsters 3D

    Could flying monsters have existed? With cutting-edge 3-D filming technology and CGI, Flying Monsters 3D recreates spectacular pterosaurs and brings these giant flying creatures to life.

  • Picture of dinosaurs during the Jurassic era

    Prehistoric World

    Discover and explore prehistoric times with galleries, time lines, quizzes, and more.

  • Picture of a theoretical scene of the mass extinction of dinosaurs

    Mass Extinctions

    More than 90 percent of all organisms that have ever lived on Earth are extinct. Learn how millions of creatures can disappear in a geological blink of an eye—and see what might be next.

Animals A-Z