Porpoise Rib Fossils and U.S. Atlantic Coastal Plain Fossiliferous Formations

As you scroll down through the Category of Cenozoic Aquatic Fossils, you will find interesting information and identifications pertaining to six such fossil species from my collection, including:

  1. Porpoise Rib Fossil
  2. Hypural Tuna Fishtail Bone Fossil
  3. Softshell Turtle Fossil
  4. Knightia Fish Fossil
  5. Dermal Denticle Ray-Fish Fossil
  6. Billfish Bill Fossil
Cenozoic Timescale Source

U.S. Atlantic Coastal Plain Geological Formations in Brief

The Cenozoic Era aquatic fossils in my collection were unearthed along of the Atlantic Coastal Plain of the United States (with one exception). The fossiliferous Miocene Epoch aged rock layers of the Atlantic Coast crops out almost continuously from southern Florida northward to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. (Gibson, 1965). Some Miocene formations (mapped bedrock units or layers) form large overlaps over older Oligocene, Eocene, and Paleocene Epoch aged rock layers (refer to timescale) as well as Mesozoic Era of the Lower and Upper Cretaceous Period rock layers (145 to 65 mya). Some Miocene formations also underlies younger Pliocene-Holocene Epoch bedrock units. I only have information as to one specific location where some of my fossils were found; the Lee Creek-Aurora mine within the Pungo River Formation in Beaufort County, North Carolina which contain various middle Miocene aged fossiliferous sediments.

Other locations where the fossils were found, I assume, could be from the Yorktown Formation another mapped bedrock unit, Pliocene aged located in the Coastal Plain of Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina; the Eastover Formation, late Miocene aged located in North Carolina; the Calvert Formation located in Maryland, Virginia and Delaware, early to middle Miocene aged, one of the three formations which make up the Calvert Cliffs, all of which are part of the Chesapeake Group.

From the southern portion of the Coastal Plain, Georgia fossils date from the Late Cretaceous, 145 mya to the present, Holocene Epoch; and Florida’s surface fossil record dates back to the Eocene Epoch when the the entire state was covered by ocean.

When sea levels were high, a shallow seaway covered much or even all of the Coastal Plain. During times of lower sea levels, the area was dryland, with large rivers and broad floodplains. For this reason, Coastal Plain strata consist of alternating marine sediments (those deposited in the sea) and non-marine sediments (those formed on land).

These richly fossiliferous deposits have attracted the attention of North American paleontologists since the nineteenth century, not to mention serious fossil hobbyists today.

Porpoise Rib Fossils

Porpoise Fossils

Approximately the lower half of the Calvert Formation (described above) is dominated by porpoise fossils, including squalodonts (primitive shark-toothed porpoises). Modern-day type porpoise fossils, also, are consistently present there, indicating an environment of estuaries and rivers. Articulated (entire body) skeletons of porpoises are not uncommon throughout the Calvert Formation. The Pungo River Formation (described above), also, has unearthed many porpoise fossils, including the river porpoises. Pertaining to my porpoise rib fossils, with the lack of enough related evidence, it’s impossible to pin down an exact species.

Porpoise Evolution

Cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) are an order of mammals that originated about 50 million years ago in the Eocene epoch. Even though all modern cetaceans are fully aquatic mammals, early cetaceans were amphibious, and their ancestors were terrestrial artiodactyls (an order of mammals that comprises the even-toed ungulates (hooved mammals). Hippos are thought to be the closest living relatives of cetaceans.

Cetacean species are divided into two groups:

(1) Baleen whales – these are the “great whales” and as their name suggests, they all have baleen plates that are used to filter food consisting of plankton and small species of fish.

(2) Toothed whales – are a suborder called odontocetes and include all species of dolphin and porpoise which eat larger prey, including at times, other marine mammals.

As a general rule of thumb, baleen whales are larger and slower than toothed whales. Additionally, all baleen whales have two blowholes, whereas toothed whales have only one.

Dolphin and Porpoise Comparison Sketch

Porpoise Vs Dolphin

Porpoises and dolphins have many similarities, for example, both are highly intelligent and use echolocation, but there are several differences, as a dolphin is not a porpoise and a porpoise is not a dolphin.

  • Porpoises are quite smaller than dolphins
  • Porpoises don’t have a pronounced beak that most dolphins have
  • Porpoise teeth are spade-shaped whereas dolphin teeth are cone-shaped
  • Porpoises have a triangular dorsal fin and dolphins have a curved dorsal fin (except for those species that don’t have a dorsal fin)
  • Porpoises body form is a little more chunky than that of the leaner, more slender dolphin body form
  • Porpoises are not vocal like the talkative dolphins
  • Porpoises are more closely related to narwhals and belugas
  • Porpoises belong to the Phocoenidae family. There are only six species of porpoises in the entire world. Oceanic dolphins, however, belong to the large Delphinidae family, which consists of at least 36 species worldwide! River dolphins belong to the Iniidae family with one living genus and four extinct genera

The Six Species of Extant Porpoises

1. The Harbor porpoise, Phocoena phocoena, has a worldwide distribution including both eastern and western U.S. and Canada coasts within the temperate to arctic regions.

2. Dall’s porpoises, Phocoenoides dalliand, northwestern U.S. coast to China

3. Vaquita porpoise, Phocoena sinus, small range, Gulf of California in Mexico

4. Finless porpoise, Neophocaena phocaenoides, wide range of Indo-Pacific regions

5. Spectacled porpoise, Phocoena dioptrica, southern Atlantic to Indo-Pacific, sub-Antarctic regions

6. Burmeister’s porpoise, Phocoena spinipinnis, both coasts of South America, mid to southern regions

Hypural Bone Fishtail Fossil Information and Interesting Related Facts

Hypural Fishtail Fossil Bone (4.5 inches (11.4 cm)

Hypural Bone Description, Body Location and Function

The hypural is a fan-shaped series of bones constituting an important part of the framework of ray-finned fish. The hypural bones are sometimes fused into one or two plate-like bones, such as with the case from my fossil collection, shown above. The hypural boney-plates join the last few vertebrae of the fish’s spine to the slender bony rays of the fish’s caudal fin. Caudal fin is a fancy scientific term for the tailfin. The caudal fin is attached to the end of the fish’s caudal peduncle by the hypural bone. The caudal peduncle is the narrow part of the fish’s body. The tailfin helps the fish steer, balance and propel. (See illustration below)

My hypural fossil was unburied in the Pungo River Formation, Aurora District, North Carolina, USA, dated from the early to middle Miocene Epoch around 23 to 14 million-years-ago. It is a large sample. I found a close match to the fossil of a tuna fish, Thynnus sp. posted by the Fossil Guy from the same location.

Tuna Facts

Tuna are a type of ray-finned bony fish belonging to the class or subclass of Actinopterygii. Ray-finned bony fish comprise over 50% of all living vertebrate species. The ray-finned fishes are so-called because their fins compromise webs of skin supported by slender bony spines (rays), as opposed to the fleshy, lobed fins that characterize the class Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish).

Tunas are teleost fish identified by their symmetrical forked tails with the upper and lower halves both exhibiting identical size.

Check out the list of a few common east Atlantic USA tuna species beginning with the largest and possible matches to the hypural fossil. You can check out the links from NOAA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for information about their range, life cycle, population status, appearance etc.

Atlantic Yellow Finned Tuna (Thunnus albacares)

Tuna Interesting Facts

In addition to the caudal fin, these high performance tuna fishes are equipped with finlets and keels. The finlets are small fins along the trunk that help the fish cut through the water. The keels can be described as a pair of lateral structures that rise slightly forward along the caudal peduncle which are a remarkable specialization in tunas, which, by the way, have also arisen in other fast-swimming marine animals.

Tuna are formidable predators with the ability to outmaneuver, outswim, and eat just about anything they can fit into their mouths.

Tuna can not only swim fast, but can reach remarkable distances as they migrate.

Western Atlantic Blue Fin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus)

Origins of the Bluefin Tuna and Evolution Development

The bluefin tuna originated from an exothermic ancestor. Exothermic means acquired heat source from the environment to stay warm. Earliest tuna fossils have been found in the Late Paleocene (65-55 mya) and Early Eocene (55-50 mya) epochs in the Tethys Sea deposits from the Middle East, southern Europe and the London clay formation. A close relative of the tuna, the earliest bonito fish, identified as Sarda palaeocenica were found in the region from the Early Paleocene. The extinct tuna-like fish, Paleothunnus parvidentatus, displayed characteristics common to both the tuna and the bonito, suggesting that the split of the tuna and bonito did not occur until the Early Eocene Epoch. Within 8-10 million years the two species diverged, forming the tuna genus Thunnus (Dickson and Graham).

Development of Endothermy in Tuna

As the oceans began to cool, warm waters began to compress into the tropics. In the Cenozoic Period, waters were the warmest at the end of Paleocene Epoch. The Tethys Seaway, a large tropical sea, began to shrink due to tectonic events and contributed to ocean cooling across the planet. Endothermy (body mechanisms other than shivering that generate heat internally) possibly evolved in tunas as a result of the need for migration and diving into colder waters for plentiful hunting grounds.

Because of the evolution of endothermy (internal heat sources) within the bluefin and other tuna, the fish are able to migrate across large distances. Dickson and Graham state that this has enabled the Atlantic Northern Bluefin Tuna to greatly expand its range and take advantage of the rich feeding areas in northern waters and warm spawning areas in the tropics, effectively expanding its thermal niche.

About Pungo River and Yorktown Formations

The Lee Creek Mine in Aurora, NC, is an open-pit phosphate mine operated by the Potash Corporation. The mine exposes two fossiliferous geological marine layers: the Pungo River Limestone (middle Miocene, Langhian age), and the Yorktown (lower Pliocene, Zanclean age) formations. The Pungo River Limestone and base of the Yorktown Formation are richly phosphatic and are commercially mined. These two units have yielded one of the most important assemblages of Neogene (between 23 and 2.6 mya) marine vertebrates in the world, including hundreds of species of sharks, rays, skates, bony fish, birds, sea turtles, estuarine crocodiles, seals, walruses, dolphins, and baleen whales. These fossils are found on-site as well as in reworked sediments in the spoils leftover from the mining. Unfortunately, the mine has been closed to the public since 2009.

Partial list of other Miocene bony fish fossils discovered in and around the U.S. Eastern Atlantic Coastline of South Carolina and North Carolina, as well as Maryland and Virginia.

  • Burrfish, Filefish, Tilefish, Pufferfish
  • Marlin, Sailfish, Boxfish, Sturgeon
  • Anglerfish, Bonita, Tuna, Bowfin
  • Catfish, Hake, Toadfish, Needlefish
  • Sea Robin, Bass, Bluefish, Barracuda
  • Boxfish, Goosefish, Toadfish, Pinfish

Softshell Turtle Fossils

The two softshell turtle fossils from my collection (shown above) are broken-off pieces from the animal’s carapace (shell covering). The fossils were unearthed with other Miocene-Pliocene Epoch (23 – 2.6 mya) fossils from the rich fossiliferous east coast of the USA. Below is an excellent softshell fossil specimen from Florida!

Brief Origin of Softshell Turtles

The earliest known turtles date to the Late Permian Epoch around 260 million-years-ago. Whereas living turtles are toothless, many ancestral forms possessed teeth. Many of the oldest and most primitive forms lacked a shell, however, they possessed precursors to the shell structures.

Researchers led by members at the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences describe one of the earliest known species of softshell turtle. The animal lived 66.5 million-years-ago in what is today North Dakota and was unearthed back in 1975. Hutchemys walkerorum, softshell turtle lived at the same time as some very large and well-known species of dinosaurs, including Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops. A phylogenetic analysis suggests that the roots of softshell turtles formed in Asia, from where the animals migrated into today’s North America sometime in the Late Cretaceous (105 mya).

Photo Courtesy of Harry Pristis The Fossil Forum

Turtle Shell Structures

Turtle shells have a top (carapace) and a bottom (plastron). The carapace and plastron are bony structures that usually join one another along each side of the body, creating a rigid skeletal box. While most turtles have hard shells composed of scutes or scales, softshell turtles have a cartilaginous carapace covered in leathery skin. The central part of the carapace in softshell turtles has a layer of solid bone beneath the leathery skin, but the bone is absent at the outer edges.

The light and flexible shells of the these turtles allow them to move more easily in open water or in muddy lake bottoms. Having a soft shell also allows them to move much faster on land than most turtles.

Softshell Turtle Description

Softshell turtles are especially recognizable by their flattened, leathery shells with flexible edges and lack of bony scutes (scales) as with hard shell turtles, and also, by a snorkel-like neck and protruding snout. Softshell turtle snouts possess a ridge around the margin of each nostril, which allows the turtle to remain beneath the water surface with just the snout exposed. Their feet are webbed with three claws giving to the family name, Trionychid, which literally means “three-clawed”. 

Male Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera) Rendering

Three Extant Softshell Turtle Species

The three softshell turtle species described below show a wide U.S. distribution within the Central to South Central regions, and Florida, except the Florida Smooth Softshell turtle is restricted to Florida and lower Georgia. Due to their fossil record age and location, these are possible matches to my fossils.

The Spiny Softshell turtle, Apalone spinifera, is distinguished with tubercles or “spines” along the front edge of the carapace above the neck. Largest of the three, the Spiny Softshell turtle adult female carapace measures from 7 to 20 inches (18 to 50 cm) in length and the turtle can weigh up to 25 pounds, while the male carapace is much smaller from 5 to 10 inches (13 to 25 cm) in length.

The two other species are called smooth softshell turtles, the Florida Smooth Softshell turtle, Apalone ferox (fossil sample above) and the Smooth Softshell turtle, Apalone mutica. Both turtle species are medium to large size. Females are bigger with shells measuring approximately 6.5 to 14 inches (16.5 to 35.6 cm) in length, whereas the male shells measure 4.5 to 10.5 inches (11.5 to 26.6 cm) in length.

The Smooth Softshell turtle, Apalone mutica, is the most aquatic of the softshell turtles and is often referred to as a “swimmer”.

The Florida Smooth Softshell turtle, Apalone ferox, colors range from olive green to dark brown, it has the darkest coloration of the three softshell species.

Florida Softshell Turtle Apalone ferox Photo by Johnskate17 on Wikipedia

More Interesting Softshell Turtle Facts

Male and female softshell turtles carapace can differ slightly in color and patterns, but these features also often differ at various stages of development.

Softshell turtles spend most of their lives in the water. They lead a solitary life and are active during the day. They spend their days foraging or basking in the sun on river banks or logs, as they are obviously cold-blooded creatures.

Softshell turtles hibernate in mud for about half of the year from October to March depending on their range.

Trioncychids (softshell turtles) are strict carnivores feeding mainly on fish, amphibians, shrimp, snails, insects and even birds. Adults have few natural predators, just humans. Young softshell turtles are eaten by raccoons, herons, and large fish.

Extinct Giant Softshell turtle (Axestemys byssinus) fossil from the famous Green River Formation in Wyoming, USA spans 6 feet (1.8 m) long and is the largest specimen of its type discovered in this important locality. It was undoubtedly one of the apex predators of Fossil Lake. Age: Early Eocene – 52 million-years-old.

You can find softshell turtles in or near various types of freshwater sources, from small rivers, lakes and swamps to tiny waterholes or bogs.

Fossil Fish Knightia

Fish Fossil Knightia Skeleton (3.5 inches (9 cm) long)

This Knightia fish skeleton was preserved by sediments dating around 50 million-years-ago during the sub-tropical to temperate Eocene Epoch when a large inland lake located near Kemmer, Wyoming, part of the Green River Formation, dried up. It was discovered by splitting the sandy layers of shale to expose it, then trimming and preparing it. The final step was to darken the skeleton and put a preservative on it to keep the skeleton from flaking off.

Extinct Knightia Fish Interesting Facts

Thousands of specimens of the small 6 to 10 inch (15 to 25 cm) long, prehistoric fish, Knighta, have been discovered in Wyoming’s Green River formation and in fact, Knightia, is Wyoming’s official state fossil. In life, the fish assembled in vast schools throughout the fresh water lakes and rivers of Eocene North America, and placed near the bottom of the aquatic food chain. The scarcer and larger Diplomytus and Mioplosus, mentioned below, were likely sustained by Knightia’s abundance, evident from stomach analysis. Befitting its small size, Knightia fed on tiny marine organisms such as plankton, insect larvae and diatoms.

I may have been a little too imaginative when I color penciled what I thought my fossil fish may have looked like in life, but I like how it turned out, anyway. At least the basic shape is accurate including its forward lower jaw and forked tail!

Fish Fossil Knightia Rendering Drawing

The Green River Formation

The following species are some of the most common extinct fish from the Green River Formation of Wyoming including, Knightia, similar to present day herring; Diplomystus, a large rib caged fish; Prisacara, a sun fish type fish; Mioplosus, a fierce bass like fish and Phareodus, a toothy piranha like fish. You can get a picture of all of these doing an internet search, very cool!

About the Green River Formation: Class Actinopterygii, the ray-finned bony fishes, comprise almost half of all known species of vertebrates, some 20,000 extant species. There are numerous locations worldwide that are noted for wondrous preservation of bony fishes, and the Green River formation that covers some 25,000 square miles of SW Wyoming, west Colorado and east Utah is one of the premier examples. The formation is one of the largest lacustrine (growing in lakes) sedimentary accumulations in the world, and spans the period from 40 to 50 million years ago during the Eocene Epoch.

Ray Fish Fossil; Dermal Denticle

Ray Fish Dermal Denticle Fossil (2.5 inches (6.35 cm) Long

What Are Dermal Denticles?

Chondrichthyans (Class of Cartilage Fish) including sharks, rays and skates, interestingly enough, have tooth-like scales called dermal denticles embedded in the skin. But in older texts, the term, placoid scales, literally meaning (plate-like) is customarily used. Today, most scientists prefer the more descriptive expression, dermal denticles, meaning (tiny skin teeth).

Denticles are similar to scales, but are actually just modified teeth with hard enamel coverings. These structures are often packed tightly together and grow with their tips facing to the rear of the fish. If you were to run your fingers from tail to head, it would feel very rough, but from head to tail, it would feel smooth. Dermal denticles provide protection for the fish, and in most cases, less resistance in the water.

Ray Fish Dermal Denticle Fossil (2.5 inches (6.35 cm) Long, Underside

Dermal denticles enfolding sharks are tiny and closely packed together resembling diamond shapes. My fossil is a large dermal denticle and is from a large ray fish such as a Roughtail Stingray which can grow 7 feet (2.1 m) across from wing tip to wing tip and 14 feet (4.2 m) long, including the tail. It can weigh as much as 660 lbs.

Dermal denticles on ray fish are typically located along the mid-body lines and tails, plus around the eyes or on the wing tips, but also can be placed more sporadically. Shape and size of dermal denticles can vary greatly. Some may be quite thick, and some may be quite bumpy with furrowed edges, while others compose tiny sharp claw-like spines etc.

It is debated in the scientific community whether oral teeth evolved from dermal denticles that migrated into the mouth or the other way around. The earliest vertebrates, such as placoderm fish, possessed boney blades rather than teeth.

Various Dermal Denticle Fossils

Special Credit: The thefossilforum.com is a great site to help identify and learn about fossils. The above photo was provided by seasoned member “digit”.

Difficulty In Identifying

Dermal denticles are difficult to pin a specific ray family/genera/specie unless they are found in association with other identifiable ray fossils such as teeth or dental plates. Also, dermal denticles can vary widely on a specific individual ray depending on the location over the body. And, there are a lot of similarities between the dermal denticles of various extant ray fish which also make it very difficult to determine a specific genera/specie, let alone extinct species.

Possible Match with my Fossil

Below, I listed a few extinct ray fish possibly a match with my fossil shown at the beginning of this article according to age and location. These extinct species range in age from the Oligocene Epoch beginning 33 mya through the Miocene beginning 23 mya to the Pliocene Epoch beginning 5.3 mya. Two localities from where these extinct species fossils have been found include the Chandler Bridge Formation, Dorchester County, Southern Carolina and/or the Pungo River Formation, Beaufort County, North Carolina. Here are some possibilities:

  • Mobula, pectinata or Mobula loupianensis “Giant Devil Rays” also called “Flying Rays”
  • Paramobula, fragilis “Eagle Ray”
  • Dasyastis cavernosa or Dasyastis rugos “Stingrays”
  • Plinthicus stenodon “Eagle Ray”
  • Raja dux “Giant Skate”

Additionally, stingrays first appeared in the fossil record around 60 million years ago during the Paleocene Epoch and the large roughtail stingray, Dasyatis centroura, mentioned above, also occurred in the range where my fossil was unearthed making it another possibility.

Ray Fish Interesting Facts

Ray fish belong to the superorder Batoidea with about 600 species and 26 families. Rays are the largest group of cartilage fishes. They are distinguished by their flattened disc-like bodies, very large pectoral, wing-like fins that are fused to the head, and by how the mouth and gill slits are situated on the fishes’ underside. A few extant and extinct families include electric rays, sting rays, skates, sawfish, spotted eagle ray, fiddler rays, or manta rays.

Rather than breathing through the mouth, ray fish breathe by taking water in through openings near the eyes called spiracles and passing it outward through the gills. More Facts below . . .

Ray Fish Rendering Drawing

Ray Fish Interesting Facts Cont…

The ray’s tail is generally long and slender and many species bear one or more sharp, saw-edged, venomous spines that can be used to inflict painful wounds. But, rays are docile creatures and very rarely have caused human death. If threatened, their base reaction is to quickly swim away. However, a defensive reaction, such as being stepped on or a predator attack, will cause them to whip up their stingers. 

Rays are predominantly marine and are found in all oceans. Many are slow-moving bottom dwellers. The well-known manta rays feed on plankton and small animals; others feed on various fishes and invertebrates. Other than skates, all rays bear living young.

Large rays live about 70 years, some live for more than 100 years.

Billfish Fossil, Swordfish or Marlin; Identification and Interesting Facts

Billfish Fossil (4.5 inches (11 cm) long)

This fossil is the broken-off tip from the bill of a billfish, estimated in age from the Miocene Epoch (23 to 5.3 million-years-ago), possibly belonging to, Xiphiorhynchus, an extinct, giant, double-billed swordfish, or possibly belonging to Tetrapturus pfluegeri, an extant marlin billfish.

I chose these two related species as possible matches to the billfish fossil because both species were abundant during the Miocene Epoch (fossil age) and because the fossil was discovered along the Eastern Atlantic Coast of United States where both species were and are native.

Swordfish Facts

Xiphiorhynchus fossil records show they were one of the first swordfishes to have evolved during the Eocene Epoch (56 million-years-ago), surviving most abundantly through the Miocene Epoch (23 mya) becoming extinct during the Pliocene Epoch (2.6 mya) when one third of the planets megafauna died out due to cooling climate changes.

Xiphiorhynchus, Extinct Swordfish Rendering Drawing

Xiphiorhynchus was a large swordfish reaching 5 meters (16 feet) long or more, comparable to the Great White Sharks of today. Unlike the “one and only” true living swordfish today, Xiphias gladius (shown below) whose smaller in comparison, averaging about 3 meters (10 feet) long, extinct Xiphiorhynchus had not one, but two equal length swords. During its reign, it would have been a top predator and likely achieved great speed and predatory skills, reminiscent of the many varieties of modern-day billfishes.

Modern-Day Swordfish (Xiphias gladius)

Xiphiorhynchus were highly migratory as are modern-day billfishes and would have been spotted along the Eastern Atlantic Coast of America through to the Gulf of Mexico down to Peru and as far south as Antarctica.

Swordfish are named after their long pointed, flat bills resembling a sword.

Billfish Fossil (4.5 inches (11 cm) long)(Reverse Side)

Marlin Facts

Tetrapturus pfuegeri is an extant species, (still living) from the marlin family, Istiophoridae, of billfishes, which includes about 10 species native to the Atlantic Ocean.

Commonly named, Long Bill Spearfish, it reaches a length of around 2.5 meters (8 feet) with a maximum weight of 58 kilograms (128 lbs). It is quite a fascinating looking marlin fish species.

One of the largest and probably best known marlin is the Atlantic Blue Marlin, Makaira nigricans, which averages 3 meters (10 feet) long and can weigh 825 kg (1800 lbs). The Blue Marlin fossil record dates back from about the middle of the Miocene Epoch around 11 million-years-ago, and also shows they were discovered along the east coast of the United States as well. So the Blue Marlin could be another possible match to this fossil.

Tetrapturus pfuegeri, Marlin Billfish (Rendering Drawing)

Marlins are oceanic species, chiefly found in offshore waters. They are highly migratory and are some of the fastest fish in the sea, reaching 110 km/h (68 mph) in short bursts. A marlin is not a swordfish. The main difference between a marlin and swordfish is that marlins have a more elongated body and a longer, sloping, dorsal fin.

Marlin’s common name is thought to be derived from its resemblance to a sailor’s marlinspike, an iron hand tool that tapers to a point and is used to separate strands of rope.

Marlins are popular sporting fish in tropical seas, consequently, the Atlantic Blue Marlin and the White Marlin are endangered owing to overfishing.