Bothriolepis is an extinct placoderm of the Middle to Late Devonian period (370 - 360 ma). It had a heavily armoured body and distinctive spine-like pectoral fins and grew up to 500 mm in length.
Bothriolepis was a member of the order Antiarchi (gk. opposite anus). Although antiarchs probably had limited upper body mobility it is clear they still had the ability to traverse widely through the water column as their remains have been found across the world. Bothriolepis is also thought to have been anadromous - it could live in both freshwater and saltwater, similar to modern salmon. This would further help explain its wide distribution.
Despite its heavy armour Bothriolepis is not considered to have been an overly active predator. This is because it had such a small ventral mouth. Instead it is believed to have been a benthic creature that ate plant material and small invertebrates by filtering sediment. Its distinctive pectoral limbs were probably used to lift the body clear of the bottom or to sweep sediment over itself as camouflage. More contentiously it has been speculated that these fore limbs could have been used to drag Bothriolepis out onto open tidal flats in much the same way as modern mudskippers. In support of this theory, signs of ventral oesophageal sacs in some remains have been interpreted as rudimentary lungs.
Bothriolepis was the most successful genus of any placoderm and its remains have been found right around the world with some of the most notable deposits in Canada and Australia.
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