CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - 360 million years ago, Northeast Ohio was under water, under a sea of saltwater.
One of the baddest, meanest fish in those waters was a Dunkleosteus, or Dunk for short.
“It was a top predator of its time,” according to Amanda McGee, a paleontologist with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. “The Dunkleosteus would have been the T-Rex of its time. It lived long before the dinosaurs.”
About 140 millions years before dinosaurs to be specific.
Cleveland is the best place in the world to find perfectly preserved Dunk fossils, which are found in rock know as Cleveland Shale.
A Dunk would die and sink to the bottom of the sea, where at the time there was no oxygen so they wouldn’t decay.
With no oxygen, there were also no other fish or organisms that would eat the dead Dunk.
Over millions of years the Dunk fossilized, turning into rock.
The fossils are found today in areas like Rocky River as the river washes away the shale revealing these monsters.
At 20 feet long and one to two tons in weight, its their massive jaws that made them the beast of their time.
“These fish, they did not have teeth,” McGee described. “They had jaws that were essentially blades and every time it would bite down it was like a self sharpening shear crunching down on whatever fish it was eating.”
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History has the world’s only 100 percent complete Dunk head fossil, that was chiseled out of shale.
When other museums want an example of their own, they come to Cleveland to make molds of the museum’s Dunk.
Even the name of the fish is a nod to Cleveland’s prehistoric playground for fish fossils.
This fish is actually named after David Dunkle, who was the head of Vertebrate Paleontology at the museum when the fish was discovered in 1876.
Yes, if you were alive then, swimming in the sea that would become Lake Erie, the Dunk would have made a pretty easy meal of you seeing as how it was known to eat prehistoric sharks with ease.
What’s crawling in your house? Prowling in your backyard? What am I seeing through my backyard telescope? Did I really just see a bald eagle during my drive home? Are coyotes dangerous? Experts from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History joins us to set the record straight on Cleveland nature – helping you better understand Northeast Ohio’s environment and providing tips on how to best share our region with our wild neighbors. Explore the wonders of science and nature at cmnh.org.