Reef fish survive the dinosaur age

History of reef dwelling fish families from Price’s study.

Evidence of two waves of reef fish were discovered to appear before and after dinosaur extinction according to a study conducted by California researchers.

April 2014, scientist Samantha Price and colleagues traced fossil records of reef fish fauna to explore their ancestry and history. The fossil records they observed were patchy so they had to trace their ancestry by developing a family tree of the major groups of salt water fish known as the “spiny-finned fish”.

Reef fish are one of the most diverse assemblages of vertebrates on Earth. Researchers found that two waves of colonization occurred. The first was between 70 and 90 million years ago while the second wave appeared immediately after the mass extinction of crustacea which included all corals.

Price believes that “if you were able to dive on a coral reef 50 million years ago, the fishes would seem familiar, you would recognize it as similar to a modern reef,”. The results show that many of the same fish existed back then as they do now such as the parrot fish and clown fish.



University of California – Davis. “Reef fish arrived in two waves, before and after mass extinction 66 million years ago.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 April 2014. <>

S. A. Price, L. Schmitz, C. E. Oufiero, R. I. Eytan, A. Dornburg, W. L. Smith, M. Friedman, T. J. Near, P. C. Wainwright. Two waves of colonization straddling the K-Pg boundary formed the modern reef fish faunaProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2014; 281 (1783): 20140321 DOI:10.1098/rspb.2014.0321

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