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updated 11/16/2010 12:30:27 PM ET 2010-11-16T17:30:27

The world's largest lungfish tooth was recently unveiled at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology annual meeting in Pittsburgh.

The tooth belonged to a carnivorous "monster" of a fish that also breaks the record for world's largest lungfish, according to project leader Kenshu Shimada, an associate professor in DePaul University's Environmental Science Program and Department of Biological Sciences.

Measuring in at over 13 feet long, this lungfish beat out the prior record-holder, an 11.5-foot long lungfish from Africa. The largest living lungfish measures only around 6.5 feet long.

Shimada, who is also a research associate in Paleontology at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History, told me that the specimen is the largest lungfish tooth ever recorded (both in terms of fossil forms and modern forms).

The anatomical features of the tooth suggest that it is either from the Jurassic or Cretaceous period (i.e., late Mesozoic = "dinosaur era").

The fossil lungfish is a new species, but a name cannot be given because of its uncertain origin. Its occurrence is mysterious because it was found in central Nebraska, where there are no known "dinosaur-aged" rocks. Thus, it was possibly transported by a river or by a "paleo-Indian" (as a "curious object") from Wyoming area where Mesozoic lungfishes are known to occur.

The discovery of such a large animal is startling, making paleontologists wonder how much we still don't know about the ecosystem during the "Age of Dinosaurs."

The specimen, now housed in the University of Nebraska State Museum, was collected in 1940 by a local Nebraska resident and remained unstudied until this research; this research exemplifies the fact that that there are 'scientific treasures' still waiting to be discovered in museum collections.

Although today's lungfish aren't nearly as impressive in terms of size, they are still remarkable due to their very unfish-like behaviors and incredible survivor skills, as this Animal Planet video shows.

Copyright © 2010 Discovery Communications, LLC. The leading global real world media and entertainment company.

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