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Temporal range: Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) - Eocene
Stratodus DB12.jpg
Scientific classification
Regan, 1911

Cope, 1872
  • S. apicalis (Cope, 1872)
  • S. indamanensis (Michaut, 2002)
  • S. oxypogon (Cope, 1877)

Stratodus is a genus of giant prehistoric aulopiform fish found in Cretaceous-aged marine strata of Kansas,[1] Alabama,[2] Morocco,[3] Israel,[4] and Niger,[5] South Dakota,[6] Jordan.[7] It has also been found in the Tamaguélelt Formation of Mali, dating to the Lower Eocene, indicating that Stratodus survived the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event.[8] This sleek fish has an upper jaw filled with multiple rows of tiny teeth and was the largest aulopiform, reaching 5 meters in length.[9]

History of Discovery[edit]

Stratodus was initially described by Edward Drinker Cope in Kansas during 1872, naming the type species S. apicalis, and described a second species in 1877,[1] S. oxypogon, both species being assigned to the family Stratodontidae. S. oxypogon is now often considered a synonym of S. apicalis, and the family was shifted from Stratodontidae to Dercetidae, but now has gone back to Stratodontidae.

For the 19th and 20th centuries, Stratodus was only known from poor fossils, usually of the skull. It wasn't until 2008 that a nearly complete skeleton of S. apicalis in the Upper Niobrara Formation was uncovered along the bank of the Missouri River of Oacoma, South Dakota,[6] and other well preserved remains have subsequently been found in the Muwaqqar Chalk Marl Formation of Harrana, Jordan.[7] A second species, S. indamanensis, was described from Niger.[9] In 2019, fossils of S. apicalis were been found in Mali dating to the Eocene.[8]


Stratodus in many respects is similar in appearance to other lizardfish but much larger, as S. apicalis could grow to over a meter[6] while S. indamanensis could reach lengths of 5 m (16 ft).[9] The body is long and slender, anguiliform in shape, and is covered in thick, spiny scutes. An elongated dorsal fin runs down the back.[6]

Perhaps the most striking feature of Stratodus were it's conical, inward pointing teeth. Stratodus possessed multiple rows of these teeth which could reach 7 mm (0.28 in). These teeth were extremely numerous, with at least 6,000 being present in the fish's mouth, to the point that over 1,000 of the teeth are oriented outside of the jaws on the lips of the fish.[9]

Stratodus was related to Ministratodus, a member of Stratodontidae with a similar body plan but smaller size.[10]


During the Late Cretaceous, Stratodus had a cosmopolitan distribution on both sides of the North Atlantic Ocean, along with North Africa and Arabia. It lived in shallow, epicontinental waters only a few meters deep. While modern aulopiformes are often ambush predators, Stratodus appears capable of active hunting, owing to a muscular and hydrodynamic body, and swam in an anguilliform-esque fashion. It's hunting strategy has been hypothesized to resemble that of billfish, using its external teeth to injure prey before returning to devour them, indicated by its external teeth and club-like protrusion at the end of its skull. It was likely a protogyneus hermaphrodite.[9]

Stratodus is one of the few large fish to exist on both sides of the K-Pg boundary, surviving the asteroid that caused the extinction of most other megafauna. In the Eocene, Stratodus inhabited brackish-to-marine tropical waters in the Trans-Saharan Seaway, living alongside animals like Palaeophis colossaeus and Rhabdognathus.[8]


  1. ^ a b 1840-1897., Cope, E. D. (Edward Drinker) (1872). On the families of fishes of the Cretaceous formation of Kansas. OCLC 25267062.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ "Correlation of pre-Selma Upper Cretaceous rocks in northeastern Mississippi and northwestern Alabama". 1948. doi:10.3133/oc35. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ Tabaste, N (1963). "Étude de restes de poissons du Crétacé saharien". Mémories de l'Institut Français d'Afrique Noire.
  4. ^ Lewy, Z; Milner, A.C.; Patterson, C. (1992). "Remarkably preserved natural endocranial casts of pterosaur and fish from the Late Cretaceous of Israel". GSI Current Research.
  5. ^ Moody; Sutcliffe (1991). "The Cretaceous deposits of the Iullemmeden Basin of Niger, central West Africa". Cretaceous Research. 12 (2): 137–157. doi:10.1016/S0195-6671(05)80021-7.
  6. ^ a b c d Harrell, Lynn (2008). "A Nearly Complete Specimen of Stratodus apicalis (Teleostei: Dercetidae) from the Upper Niobrara Formation of South Dakota, USA". SVP Abstracts – via Researchgate.
  7. ^ a b Kaddumi, Hani (2009). Fossils of the Harrana Fauna and the Adjacent Areas. Amman: Publications of the EternalRiver Museum of Natural History.
  8. ^ a b c "Stratigraphy and Paleobiology of the Upper Cretaceous-Lower Paleogene Sediments from the Trans-Saharan Seaway in Mali". MorphoBank datasets. 2019-07-01. doi:10.7934/p2735. S2CID 242354960.
  9. ^ a b c d e Michaut, Marc (2012). "Stratodontidae, Maastrichtien du Niger, partie 1". HAL Open Science. Archived from the original on 27 May 2022.
  10. ^ Michaut, Marc (2012). "Stratodontidae, Maastrichtien du Niger, partie 2". HAL Open Science.