Life in the Devonian- the Age of Fishes
In the Devonian period, some 410-360 million years ago, the eastern coastline of Australia lay much further west than today. An extensive river and lake system covered large parts of the continent, draining into shallow seas. Where Canowindra is today would have been a wide flood plain, dotted with large rivers, lakes and billabongs. It was the 'Age of Fishes', and scientists can now reconstruct the Canowindra story from the abundant fish fossils discovered there.
The Canowindra fauna was dominated by two kinds of strange armoured (or placoderm) fishes, Bothriolepis and Remigolepis, which belong to a long-extinct placoderm group called the antiarchs. A third, less common, armoured fish known as Groenlandaspis belonged to another placoderm group called arthrodires.
Abundant fossil remains of Bothriolepis, Remigolepis and Groenlandaspis have been found in late Devonian rocks in most of the world's now widely scattered super-continents. Such finds support the theory that the earth's continents were once grouped together in the form of a super-continent, PANGAEA, which later split apart into LAURASIA in the Northern Hemisphere and GONDWANA (including Australia) in the Southern Hemisphere.
The largest fishes found at Canowindra belong to the air-breathing, lobe-finned sarcopterygians, which included the ancestors of the first vertebrates to invade dry land, amphibians. The larger sarcopterygians from Canowindra have been named after local towns, councils and localities- Canowindra grossi, Mandageria fairfaxi, Cabonnichthys burnsi and Gooloogongia loomesi.
Completing the faunal list at Canowindra is a small, long-snouted lungfish (or dipnoan), known only from two incomplete specimens. These have been identified as a species of Soederberghia , a Devonian lungfish first discovered in the late 1930s in late Devonian rocks East of Greenland. The species found at Canowindra, Soederberghia simpsoni, provides yet another ancient link between today's widely scattered continents.
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