The Fossils

Cabonnichthys burnsi Ahlberg and Johanson 1997

Pronunciation: Cab-on-ik-this burns-i
Translation: "Burns' Cabonne fish"
Named after Cabonne Shire Council, which provided equipment to excavate the site and also supported the creation of the Age of Fishes Museum, and Dr Bruce Burns, Sydney, who instigated the 1993 excavations.
Period: Late Devonian (360-70 million years ago)
Description: Medium-sized carnivorous lobe-finned fish
Length - up to 70 cms

Class - Osteichthyes ('bony fish')
Subclass - Sarcopterygii ('fleshy-fins')
Superorder - Crossopterygii (lobe-finned fishes)
Order - Osteolepiformes ('bony scaled forms')
Family - Tristichopteridae
Genus - Cabonnichthys
Species - Cabonnichthys burnsi

In the Devonian

The second tristichopterid described from the Canowindra site, Cabonnichthys was named by Dr Per Ahlberg and Dr Zerina Johanson in 1997. More than 10 specimens have been found so far. Like its larger 'cousin' Mandageria, Cabonnichthys had a strong jaw with two rows of teeth. The outer row of teeth were small, but the inner row were large fangs that produced a strong interlocking bite at the front of the jaw. The tooth arrangement and the shape of the fangs themselves are similar to the dental weaponry of large carnivorous reptiles such as crocodiles. It is possible that, like crocodiles, Cabonnichthys could tackle prey that were quite large relative to its own body size.

Predators of large prey often display aggressive behaviour patterns, and it is possible that Cabonnichthys had a temperament that belied its modest size.