Oregon’s saber-toothed salmon — also fondly known as the “fanged fishosaurus” — sounds like a monster straight out of a watery nightmare. Never fear; they haven’t swum in Oregon waters in millions of years.
If you’ve been to the Explore Oregon exhibit at the University of Oregon’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History in the past year or so, chances are you’ve seen a reconstruction of what the giant salmon might have looked like.
However, when UO paleontologist Edward Davis and a group of researchers discovered two new almost-intact salmon skulls in 2014, their ideas of how the salmon lived and looked — previously based on partial skeletons found almost six decades ago — were revolutionized.
“We discovered that our ideas about their saber teeth were completely wrong,” Davis said. “The museum’s exhibit is going to have to be redone; all of the giant salmon artwork, the bumper stickers, tote bags and t-shirts are going to become collectors’ items now.”
The great reveal is on Tuesday, Sept. 1, during a free talk in the Bascom-Tykeson Room of the Eugene Public Library, in which Davis will deliver his new findings. The event is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. and will last about an hour.
Davis’ work is not complete; there is much more research to be done on these Pacific Northwest beasts. After he presents the newest material to the audience, he will fill them in on the ongoing problems his team faces with research and pose hypotheses to them.
“I’m hoping that people will leave the talk with a better understanding of evolution,” Davis said. “I want them to understand how natural selection could shape a giant salmon. Huge animals fascinate everybody — it’s all about the biggest and the fiercest.”
— By Nathaniel Brown, Public Affairs Communications