Skip to main content

The 455 Million-Year-Old “Monster” Shark In China Is… Our Ancestors?

Research just published in the scientific journal Nature describes a completely new species of the acanthodian group, an ancient family of jawed fish that appeared tens of millions of years before the world began the “fish age” in 420 million years ago.

Portrait of our 455 million-year-old “monster” ancestor – Photo: Zhang Heming

The Acanthodians are the oldest group of jawed fish ever recorded and the common ancestor of many species – including morphologically similar modern sharks, and countless other jawed animals including humans. According to a group of authors from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Qujing Normal University – China and Brimingham University – UK.

According to PHYS, the new species was named Fanjingshania after the place where it was excavated – Mount Fan Jingshan is extremely rich in natural resources, especially rich fauna from ancient to modern times. Specimens revealed from the Longxi Formation, Shitian District, Guizhou – China.


The body of the Fanjingshania fish is quite similar to that of a modern shark, but has a more terrifying skin, is a solid armor with sharp fins, so it resembles the “monster” version of the shark.

This specimen was determined to be about 455 million years old by morphological comparison of several related species from the same period. Thus it belongs to the Ordovician period.

This “monster” shark also preserves many features of “unfinished” evolution, transitioning from more ancient species to the state of a jawed species. Its bones also show evidence of bone resorption and remodeling that only began to develop in both bone and later species including humans, which were absent in earlier cartilaginous fishes.


The new discovery points to an important milestone about when Earth’s organisms evolved from jawless species with “sticky” skeletons to jawless animals with more flexible skeletons, helping scientists science evaluates in more detail the rate of evolution through the ages and better understands how the most ancient species have changed.

Professor Zhu Min from the Chinese Academy of Sciences emphasized that this is the oldest known jawed fish with detailed anatomy. The fossil remains of Fanjingshania are also in good condition, providing many interesting details.