Apparently, before being one of those ingredients of the cuisine that is adored or hated, anchovies were also a real terror of the oceans.
According to the website Science Alert, this is because of two species of predatory fish from the Eocene, 55 million years ago, which will be closely related to anchovies as we now know them.
The two fossils were found near Belgium and Pakistan. The first species, called Clupeopsis straeleni, was first described in 1946 and was about half a meter long. The second, named Monosmilus chureloides, was found in 1977 and was twice as large. Although the two were different in size, both have similarities, mainly because of the large tooth they had.
Now, a team of paleontologists from the University of Michigan, in the United States, made some comparisons between the two fish and several modern species, having determined that the fossils belonged to a previously unknown clade of clupeiforms (a group that includes sardines, herring and anchovies).
Most clupeiforms, including anchovies, are planktivores, that is, they feed on plankton, and have no teeth or jaws similar to those found in the two prehistoric fossils. According to the same website, this indicates that they would have a predatory hunting style.
Knowing exactly how and why C. straeleni and M. chureloides disappeared is impossible, but it is likely that they were eventually overcome by rival predators.
The investigation was published, last week, in the scientific journal Royal Society Open Science.