Fishy tales

I often think palaeontology is just about story telling. It may seem that we know everything about what’s in the collection, but the truth is we gather as much information as we can and then make up a story that best fits the facts.

There are lots of things palaeontologists do to try and make their story as good as possible, such as gathering detailed information and analysing things, but stories and interpretations often change as we discover new things.

A nice example of this story telling can be seen in our fossil fish.

These two specimens show several fish, which may not seem too remarkable, but when you start thinking about the size, shape and arrangement of the fossils you can start to build up a story.

Clupea brevissima, 90 million years old, The Lebanon

Vectichthys vectensis, 40 million years old, Isle of Wight

Are there lots of different sizes or are they similar?

Are they grouped together or spread out, do any overlap?

Are they all the same sort of fish?

When you’ve thought through all these things and gathered your facts it’s time to make up a story about how the might have died.

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