I took this shot in the Gallery of Paleontology at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, France — but it could just as well have come from any of dozens of other museums. It’s the skull of a Dunkleosteus:
Dunkleosteus was an early fish, among the first jawed fishes, and had an armor plated skull. Lacking distinct teeth, it sliced into its food with a huge, bony, self-sharpening beak. Computer modeling has revealed that Dunkleosteus may have had the strongest bite of any fish in history, with the possible exception of the ancient shark Megalodon.
Reaching nearly 10 meters in length, Dunkleosteus was at the top of the food chain during the Late Devonian period, some 360 – 380 million years ago. Yet in spite of its ecological success, Dunkleosteus died out abruptly along with many of its kin during the Late Devonian extinction (which seems to have impacted only marine species). In the process, some huge ecological niches were opened up — including some later taken over by sharks.