Scientists have discovered the world’s oldest known example of a squid-like creature attacking its prey, in a fossil dating back almost 200 million years.
The fossil was found on the Jurassic coast of southern England in the 19th century and is currently housed within the collections of the British Geological Survey in Nottingham.
In a new analysis, researchers say they appear to show a creature – which they have identified as Clarkeiteuthis montefiorei – with a herring-like fish (Dorsetichthys bechei) in its jaws.
They say the position of the arms, alongside the body of the fish, suggests this is not a fortuitous quirk of fossilisation but that it is recording an actual palaeobiological event.
They also believe it dates from the Sinemurian period (between 190 and 199 million years ago), which would predate any previously recorded similar sample by more than 10 million years.
The research was led by the University of Plymouth, in conjunction with the University of Kansas and Dorset-based company, The Forge Fossils.
It has been accepted for publication in Proceedings of the Geologists' Association and will also be presented as part of Sharing Geoscience Online, a virtual alternative to the traditional General Assembly held annually by the European Geosciences Union (EGU).