Prehistoric fish found near Sooke named after amateur collector

The fish lived about 25 million years ago, scientists say

A prehistoric Chimaeridae fish. (Contributed)

A prehistoric Chimaeridae fish. (Contributed)

During a fossil expedition to a beach near Muir Creek northwest of Sooke six years ago, an amateur collector made the discovery of his life – a rare new Chimaeridae fish.

After donating his mysterious find to the Royal B.C. Museum, Steve Suntok recently learned the skeletal remains, a mandibular dental plate, was an iconic fish from the Upper Oligocene age.

Identified as a new species, it has been named Canadodus suntoki – Canadodus means “tooth from Canada,” and suntoki is named after Suntok.

The fish would have lived about 25 million years ago.

“Every find’s exciting, but this one especially so,” Suntok said Wednesday.

“It was unusual, but I didn’t know what I found. It’s always fun when this stuff contributes to science.”

RELATED: East Sooke man discovers B.C.’s first dinosaur skull

The find was documented in this month’s Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology by Russian researcher Evgeny Popov. Victoria paleontologist Marji Johns and Suntok co-authored the paper.

Link to the article

Chimaeridae is a family of cartilaginous fishes that typically have short rounded snouts and long tapered tails.

The fossil dental plate is broad and strong, indicating the fish fed on invertebrates using its dentition to crush shells to extract the nutritious animal inside.

These fishes rarely preserve well in the fossil record, making this fossil find of high importance, John said.

“This find is a one-and-only and it’s the first found from the West Coast of Canada. It’s extremely rare,” John said.

The Suntok family are skilled fossil collectors. They have discovered many fossils near Sooke and donated important ones to the Royal B.C. Museum.

Suntok’s daughter on a family outing found a coracoid bone of a new water bird. In 2015, it was identified and named Stemec suntokum by Royal B.C. Museum research associate Gary Kaiser.

Suntok has added to the museum’s Sooke-area fossil collection: whale vertebrae specimens, ribs, a seal bone, a potential terrestrial mammal bone, fish bones, fossil leaves and many invertebrate fossils (snails, clams, mussels, oysters, corals, brachiopods, barnacles, echinoderms, and tubeworms).

“Steve has a very keen eye. You need to stand there and look at the rock and know what you’re looking for, and then you might see things,” John said.



editor@sookenewsmirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital took in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health as part of a provincial agreement. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria hospital takes in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health

Royal Jubilee Hospital takes patients as part of provincial transport network

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared on Nov. 19. (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
52 positive COVID-19 cases now associated with LNG Canada site outbreak

Eight cases still active, 44 considered recovered

The Kitimat River in July. (Clare Rayment photo)
Good News, Kitimat!

Bringing some local good news to your week

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross has been named critic for Environment and Climate Change Strategy for the BC Liberals. (Peter Versteege photo)
Skeena MLA Ellis Ross named critic for Environment and Climate Change Strategy

Previously, Ross was the critic for LNG, Resource Opportunities, and Responsible Development

Janet Austin, the lieutenant-governor of British Columbia, not seen, swears in Premier John Horgan during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. Horgan says he will look to fill gaps in the federal government’s sick-pay benefits program aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. premier says province prepared to patch holes in new federal sick-pay benefits

Horgan said workers should not be denied pay when they are preventing COVID-19’s spread

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

B.C. Premier John Horgan on a conference call with religious leaders from his B.C. legislature office, Nov. 18, 2020, informing them in-person church services are off until further notice. (B.C. government)
B.C. tourism relief coming soon, Premier John Horgan says

Industry leaders to report on their urgent needs next week

An RCMP cruiser looks on as a military search and rescue helicopter winds down near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
B.C. Mountie, suspect airlifted by Canadian Armed Forces from ravine after foot chase

Military aircraft were dispatched from Comox, B.C., say RCMP

An 18-year old male southern resident killer whale, J34, is stranded near Sechelt in 2016. A postmortem examination suggests he died from trauma consistent with a vessel strike. (Photo supplied by Paul Cottrell, Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
“We can do better” — humans the leading cause of orca deaths: study

B.C. research reveals multitude of human and environmental threats affecting killer whales

A logo for Netflix on a remote control is seen in Portland, Ore.,Aug. 13, 2020. Experts in taxation and media say a plan announced Monday by the government will ultimately add to the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jenny Kane
‘Netflix tax’ for digital media likely to raise prices for consumers, experts say

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales

BIG SALMON ranch in Washington State. (Center for Whale Research handout)
Non-profit buys Chinook ranch in hopes of increasing feed for southern resident killer whales

The ranch, which borders both sides of Washington State’s Elwha River, is a hotspot for chinook salmon

Most Read