Paläontologische Zeitschrift

, 83:479 | Cite as

First fossil records of the tholichthys larval stage of butterfly fishes (Perciformes, Chaetodontidae), from the Oligocene of Europe

  • Norbert Richard MicklichEmail author
  • James C. Tyler
  • G. David Johnson
  • Ewa Świdnicka
  • Alexandre F. Bannikov
Research Paper


The first fossils of the tholichthys larval stage of a chaetodontid from the lower Oligocene (Rupelian, Fish Shales; about 30.1 MYA) of Frauenweiler (Baden-Württemberg, S Germany) are described, along with two less well-preserved probable tholichthys from the lower Oligocene Menilite-Formation (IPM3, 30–29 MYA and IPM4A, 29–28 MYA) of Przemyśl (Outer Carpathians, SE Poland). The fossils are compared with tholichthys larvae of the extant genus of Chaetodontidae to which they are most similar, namely Chaetodon. The German specimens are identified as tholichthys larvae by the plate-like expansions of the supracleithrum and posttemporal that extend posteriorly well behind the head and by an expanded preopercle with a large posterior spine; these bones, and the frontals and supraoccipital, are distinctively rugose. The Polish specimen from IPM3 has similar features so it is safe to assume that it also is a chaetodontid tholichthys, whereas the specimen from IPM4A is so poorly preserved that it can only very tentatively be referred to the Chaetodontidae. The occurrence of tholichthys larvae prompts reconsideration of the paleoenvironmental situation at their respective fossil sites.


Morphology, paleoecology Tholichthys, Chaetodontidae Lower Oligocene Frauenweiler, S Germany Przemyśl, SE Poland 


Die ersten fossilen Nachweise des Tholichthys-Postlarvalstadiums von Schmetterlingsfischen (Chaetodontidae) werden beschrieben. Zwei komplett erhaltene Exemplare stammen aus dem Unter-Oligozän (Rupelton, Fischschiefer; ca. 30,1 Mio. J.) der Tongrube Frauenweiler bei Heidelberg (Baden-Württemberg, Süd-Deutschland). Zwei weitere, weniger gut überlieferte Funde stammen aus der unter-oligozänen Menilit-Formation (IPM3, 30-29 Mio. J. und IPM4A, 29-28 Mio. J.) von Przemyśl (Äußere Karpathen, Südost-Polen). Die Fossilien werden mit den Tholichthys-Larven heutiger Chaetodontidae verglichen, und zwar insbesondere mit solchen der Gattung Chaetodon, denen sie am meisten ähneln. Die Funde aus Frauenweiler können aufgrund plattenähnlicher Auswüchse am Supracleithrum und am Posttemporale die deutlich hinter das Kopfende hinausreichen, sowie ein breites Präoperculum mit einem großen, nach hinten gerichteten Stachel als Tholichthys-Larven bestimmt werden. Ebenso typisch ist die rugose Oberflächenskupltur mancher Schädelelemente, insbesondere diejenige der Frontalia und des Supraoccipitales. Übereinstimmungen mit dem polnischen Exemplar aus der IPM3 Zone legen nahe, dass es sich auch bei diesem um einen Vertreter der Chaetodontidae handelt. Der andere Fund kann aufgrund seiner schlechten Erhaltung nur unter Vorbehalt hierzu gestellt werden. Das Vorkommen von Tholichthys- bzw. Tholichthys-ähnlichen Larven gibt Anlass die ehemaligen Lebens- bzw. Umweltbedingungen im Bereich der oben genannten Lokalitäten zu überdenken.


Morphologie, Paläoökologie Tholichthys, Chaetodontidae Unter Oligozän Frauenweiler, Süd-Deutschland Przemyśl, Südost-Polen 



We are grateful to Frank Sanzenbacher, of Bondorf, Germany, a skillful amateur paleontologist who first found one of the Frauenweiler tholichthys specimens, prepared it, and permitted it to be purchased by the Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt under reasonable conditions. We also thank Annette and Harald Oechsler of Waghäusel, Germany, amateur paleontologists whose ardent and arduous work at the Frauenweiler site during the past few years of field work have obtained many valuable specimens for the scientific community. The other Frauenweiler tholichthys specimen was obtained by the Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Stuttgart and was generously loaned to us for study in Darmstadt and in Washington, DC, through the cooperation of Ronald Böttcher, Curator of Paleontology. We appreciate the cooperation of Jeffery M. Leis, Australian Museum, Sydney, and Keiichi Matsuura, National Science Museum, Tokyo, for the loan of tholichthys specimens. We thank James F. DiLoreto, Smithsonian Photographic Services, for scanning our illustrations and transmitting them between the authors. We are much indebted to Sandra J. Raredon, National Museum of Natural History, for the many hours she devoted to taking digital radiographs of extant chaetodontid fishes to provide us with an extensive survey of vacant interneural space position in that family. Ai Nonaka, National Museum of Natural History, provided technical assistance in sorting, cataloging, photographing and taking data on numerous chaetodontid larvae. Our identifications of chaetodontid specimens at the Smithsonian Institution were greatly aided by Gerry R. Allen of the Western Australian Museum during his visit to the Smithsonian in 2008. The photographs of the Polish specimen ZPALWr. A/4000 were made by Paweł Socha of the Paleozoology Department of Wroclaw University. The research of Alexandre F. Bannikov was supported by the Russian Foundation of Basic Research (grants nos 08-05-00654, 09-05-00170). The manuscript was improved by the editing of Diane M. Tyler. Useful suggestions were offered during the peer review process by Giorgio Carnevale (Università di Pisa) and an anonymous reviewer.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Norbert Richard Micklich
    • 1
    Email author
  • James C. Tyler
    • 2
  • G. David Johnson
    • 2
  • Ewa Świdnicka
    • 3
  • Alexandre F. Bannikov
    • 4
  1. 1.Natural History DepartmentHessisches Landesmuseum DarmstadtDarmstadtGermany
  2. 2.National Museum of Natural HistorySmithsonian InstitutionWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Palaeozoology, Zoological InstituteUniversity of WrocławWrocławPoland
  4. 4.Borisyak Paleontological InstituteRussian Academy of SciencesMoscowRussia

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