Gogonasus (Greek for "Gogo snout"); pronounced GO-go-NAY-suss
Shallow lakes of Australia
Middle Devonian (380 million years ago)
Size and Weight:
About one foot long and one pound
Diamond-shaped scales; spiracles on skull
Over the last few decades, most of the lobe-finned fish ancestral to the first tetrapods of the Devonian period have been discovered in the northern hemisphere, usually in the far reaches of North America or northern Europe (Scotland being a particularly fruitful location). That's why it was such a surprise when an intact fossil of Gogonasus was discovered in 2006 in Australia (even though other, less well-preserved remains had been unearthed there years before).
What makes Gogonasus special is that it was clearly a prehistoric fish, yet it had some characteristics looking ahead to later tetrapods--such as slits, or spiracles, in its skull, one of the first stages toward breathing air, and strong, limblike fins. As one of its discoverers is quoted as saying in National Geographic magazine, "In simple terms, Gogonasus is a missing link between fishes that look like fish and the more amphibian-like elpistosteglians [tetrapod-like fishes such as Tiktaalik]." According to recent research, Gogonasus also possessed impressive abdominal muscles, a feature not previously seen in Devonian fish.