Think Tank

Fossil Moonfish

Fossil Moonfish are very similar to Moonfish living around Indo-Pacific reefs today.

Fossil Moonfish from the Lapworth Museum of Geology

Fossil Moonfish

This Fossil Moonfish is 50 million years old and was found in Italy.

A fish is an animal that lives in water, is covered in scales, has a cold blooded metabolism and fins for swimming but no limbs.

The modern Moonfish eats various invertebrates from the ocean floor, so it is likely this fossil fish fed in the same way.

More about Moonfish

The Moonfish has a very deep, almost triangular shaped-body that is very much flattened from side-to-side.

This Fossil Moonfish was discovered at Monte Bolca, near Verona in Italy. The beautiful preservation of the Monte Bolca Fish has made them popular collectors items. Fossil fish from Monte Bolca have been recorded as having been collected from at least the sixteenth century. The sediments at Monte Bolca are from the Eocene epoch, so the fish is about 50 million years old.

The scientific name, or two-part binomial, for this Moonfish is Mene rhombea. This is an extinct species that is closely related to the living Moonfish Mene maculata that lives in and around reefs in the Indo-Pacific region.

This Moonfish is in a block of very fine-grained Limestone that has preserved the fish in exceptional detail. The wonderful preservation of this skeleton suggests that when the fish died it was rapidly buried in fine sediment that was anoxic (lacked oxygen). This lack of oxygen reduced the rate of decay and allowed the fine details of the fish to be preserved.

Soft parts of fossil animals are only rarely preserved. Normally an animal dies and it is eaten, or decays and is broken up by currents on the sea bottom. Rare soft tissue preserved in this Moonfish includes some of the internal organs, skin and scales.

Want to know more?

To download this information or to find out more about Fossil Fish, click on the Resources to your right. 

This Moonfish is part of the collections held at the Lapworth Museum, University of Birmingham. Use the ‘Lapworth Museum of Geoogy’ web link below to find out more about the Collections at the Lapworth Museum.

Flatfish skeleton from Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

Both Moonfish and Flatfish are flattened from side-to-side, but flatfish lie on one side on the sea floor. To find our more about Flatfish, click on the image above.

Calymene Trilobite from Dudley Museum

The 'Dudley Bug' is a Trilobite, a creature that lived on the sea floor 425 million of years ago in the Silurian Period. Find our more about the Dudley Bug by clicking on the image above.