Named By: Joseph Leidy - 1870.
Classification: Chordata, Actinopterygii, Osteoglossomorpha, Ichthyodectiformes, Ichthyodectidae, Ichthyodectinae.
Species: X. audax, X. vetus.
Size: 4 to 6 meters long.
Known locations: USA, Alabama, Georgia, Kansas. Europe. Australia. Canada.
Time period: Coniacian through to the Maastrichtian of the Cretaceous.
Fossil representation: Many specimens from across the globe.
broad range of fossils discovered around the world suggests that the
bony fish Xiphactinus had a cosmopolitan
distribution. A comparable
similar fish with regards to appearance is the modern day Tarpon.
Although Tarpon are not related to the ancient Xiphactinus,
streamlined bodies and strongly upturned mouths bear a striking
One important difference between the two fish are the enlarged teeth present in Xiphactinus fossils. If Xiphactinus failed to swallow its prey in one go, the teeth would have dug in preventing its prey from escaping, allowing Xiphactinus to steadily slide its prey into its mouth, one bite at a time.
The discovery of a two meter Gillicus arcuatus inside the fossil of a Xiphactinus twice its size is proof that it was a formidable predator, although it is thought that the Xiphactinus may have died from internal injury due to the Gillicus struggling inside of it, explaining why the Gillicus was not digested. Xiphactinus was however also preyed upon by other larger predators as evidenced in a fossil of the shark Cretoxyrhina at least one specimen of which has been found with a large Xiphactinus inside of it. Another shark active in the Western Inland Seaway, Squalicorax, also exhibits Xiphactinus remains inside of its own.