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

The second of two massive hydro-electric turbines headed to the Site C Dam project near Fort St. John sits in Prince Rupert ready for the Jan. 27 trek across the province. The load is so large and heavy it needs counterweights on the 120 ft transport truck and trailer (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Second of two giant turbines and multi-vehicle convoy hit the road to Site C Dam

Massive turbine load from Prince Rupert needs one truck pulling it and two trucks to push it

John Rustad, MLA Nechako Lakes. (Submitted photo)
Nechako Lakes MLA questions vaccine supply shift

John Rustad wonders why elderly aren’t being vaccinated while younger people are

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)
Saik’uz First Nation forced to change initial COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan

The First Nation community is looking at vaccinating elders 80 + only

Operating Room nurse Tammy Solecki, Clinical Practice Leader Joanne George, and Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Van Zyl, stand alongside new equipment G.R. Baker’s shoulder surgery extension. (Submitted photo)
New shoulder surgery program at G.R. Baker Hospital in Quesnel already getting rave reviews

The $200,000 program could support nearly 100 surgeries a year at G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Downtown Fernie is pictured after a snowfall.
B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at B.C. legislature on the province’s mass vaccination plan for COVID-19, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
COVID-19 quarantine not an option for B.C., John Horgan says

Apres-ski parties increase risk, not interprovincial travel

Most Read