Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh: Earth Sciences

Research Article

Rhizodont crossopterygian fish from the Dinantian of Foulden, Berwickshire, Scotland, with a re-evaluation of this group

S. M. Andrewsa1

a1 Royal Scottish Museum, Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JF, Scotland.


Material of crossopterygian fishes from Foulden, Berwickshire, is important in including the first known entire specimen giving a clear picture of the body form of the Family Rhizodontidae (sensu Andrews 1973). This group is specialised in having numerous subsidiary lateral lines on the body, a ventrally expanded shoulder girdle, fins with peculiar stiffened structure, the pectorals forming greatly enlarged paddles and other fins being reduced in size. The Foulden remains fall into large and small size-ranges occurring largely at different levels in the sequence, but although these may represent growth in one taxon the available parts of the body are mostly complementary. Separate preliminary descriptions of the two size-ranges are therefore given, the small complete form being named ?Strepsodus anculonamensis sp. nov., and the large form remaining unnamed pending further study. An abridged historical account of previously named rhizodont genera (Rhizodus, Strepsodus, Sauripterus and Pycnoctenion) is given in order to explain why the new Foulden form(s) cannot at present be generically assigned more closely. A revised diagnosis of the Family Rhizodontidae leads to a discussion of the functional morphology and mode of life of fish of this type. Analogies with modern forms indicate that, like some sharks and crocodiles, they may have fed by tearing flesh off large prey, rotating or shaking against its inertia. Ways in which variously shaped rhizodont teeth (recurved, sigmoid etc.) may have functioned are suggested. Addenda deal with (1) the possible occurrence at Foulden of a large lungfish and (2) (after considering primitive and advanced rhizodont features) the renaming of Rhizodus ornatus Traquair 1878 from higher in the Scottish lower Carboniferous, as the type of a new genus, Screbinodus.

(Received May 02 1984)

(Accepted December 10 1984)


  • Carboniferous;
  • feeding habits;
  • functional morphology;
  • primitive or advanced features;
  • Screbinodus gen. nov.;
  • ?Strepsodus anculonamensis sp. nov.;
  • systematics;
  • teeth.