The Fossils

Soederberghia simpsoni

Soederberghia simpsoniJohanson Daeschler (2001)

Pronunciation: Soe-der-berghia simp-soni
Named after Gunnar Säve-Söderbergh, a Swedish scientist who first discovered Soederberghia in East Greenland in the 1940's, and after William (Bill) Simpson, a NSW beekeeper who saw the first fossil fish slab discovered by road workers near Canowindra and reported it to the Australian Museum in Sydney in 1956, thereby saving a unique world-class fossil site for posterity.
Period: Late Devonian (360-70 million years ago)
Description - a small long-snouted lungfish
Length - about 25cm

Class - Osteichthyes ('bony fish')
Subclass- Sarcopterygii ('fleshy-fins')
Order - Dipnomorpha ('lungfish-shape')
Family - Rhynchodipteridae (long-snouted lungfishes)
Genus - Soederberghia
Species - Soederberghia simpsoni


In the Devonian

Dipnoan fishes (popularly known as lungfishes) first appeared around 400 million years ago and have a long, well-documented fossil record, world-wide but today they only survive in South America (Lepidosiren), West Africa (Protopterus) and Queensland, Australia (Neoceratodus, the Qld lungfish).

Soederberghia simpsoni is the only lungfish known from the Late Devonian mass fish-kill at Canowindra. It is also one of the rarest fishes in the Canowindra fauna, known from only 2 specimens (out of nearly 4,000 fishes recovered) - an isolated head (shown below) and an incomplete body and tail, but lacking the head.

The wide geographical distribution of Soederberghia fossils, from East Greenland, Pennsylvania, USA and two sites in NSW, Australia (near Forbes and Canowindra, NSW), confirms the close faunal links between these now widely separated areas in the Late Devonian. This supports the evidence provided by the placoderm fishes found at Canowindra (Bothriolepis, Remigolepis and Groenlandaspis) all of which are also known from Greenland.