• J.V. Becker

Devonian Deep

Dunkle debuts as a fashion accessory

This idea has haunted my dreams for nearly a year: I'm proud to realize that I'm on the final steps in prototyping this prehistoric chomping fish. I... I just love this dunkle so much.

Dunkleosteus bag charm over denim in black

It may honestly be because my first reaction to a dunkleosteus skull as a child was that it instantly confused and terrified me... and that somehow became a need to understand it more clearly, which warped into a fascination and idolization of the animal.

Just to imagine this creature swimming in our earth's most prehistoric seas; how absolutely deadly it was, the strength of its jaws powerful enough to crush anything clean through in one bite, including its own kind, which it did. A true primordial sea monster.

The trouble is, this ancient beast is so old, the fossil records for it haven't been preserved aside from its massive skull. The existing imprints left behind are quite fearful on their own & one can imagine that the face of this monster was not so incredibly different with the skin on. Unfortunately its the rest of the animal that has been lost to time.

We can of course research other relatives similar to dunkleosteus through old texts and fossil records of bony plated fish, which is the only way one can come up with the rear bit of the skeleton. I compared dunkleosteus to existing, though very difficult-to-find older fossils of smaller placoderms, armoured prehistoric fish which lived during the same time period. Today a similar-looking fish might be a plecostomus, the sucker fish. (Which I had a wonderful aquarium pet of for many years.)

I so wanted to get dunkleosteus right and although we can only speculate in all honesty, I would do my very best to do that. It took me several weeks of reading, sketching, prototyping and changing things by means of observing the bone structures of his relatives. I redid the initial model countless times.. In this instance, the suede ultimately ended up representing cartilage, as many sea creatures don't fully have "bones" per se and something needed to represent that or else the model would feel lacking in structure, much as a shark "fossil" would be left with only the jaws and nothing else.

For a large, primitive fish that's mostly made up of muscle for swimming and crushing power and which can grow absolutely huge, this was the closest I could work out to scientific accuracy that felt true to the animal.

When that was realized, I had made my first, full-model version of dunkleosteus and added an ammonite to swim alongside him, as most of this fish's food was very tough to get to and had some sort of shell which is as the sea was in those days.

This is the reason for such strong, crushing jaws. It would be the only way for them to eat if the weren't living as a filter feeder. The ocean then was an even more unforgiving place where its inhabitants had to evolve tough enough means of survival in order to enable themselves to survive into adulthood in such an inhospitable environment as the devonian seas.

Humans certainly couldn't have fared well in such a time and place; imagine that even an extremely heavy fishing spear couldn't pierce through the monstrous fish's armour before he might turn and take a single crunch through a whole section of your boat, and things would only get worse from there. This is the sort of thing I can't help but to think about while reconstructing these sorts of fellows, lol. Exciting!!

What's more fun though, is that as with all of these fossil models, I learn a lot during the journey of building them. Dunkleosteus was a truly incredible beast; a real sea-monster and a force of nature that existed for at least 24 million years. That's an insanely long time, especially compared to ourselves. Its means of survival was efficient, violently ruthless and much as sharks are the apex now of the deep, so it was to then.

This perfectly-designed, prehistoric predator deserves our respect... and were it alive today, definitely our fear as well. But I'll admit, I'm more comfortable imagining the ancient oceans anyday over being able to swim in them. (: And now, finally represented with a skeletal "body," dunkle sure does look complete... and the best part is I can take him with me wherever I go...

& who wouldn't want a travel-size, devonian sea-monster on their side? <3

Dunkleosteus in black veg tanned leather and taupe suede w/ matte silver-toned brass hardware

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