Hong Kong’s First Identified Dinosaur-era Vertebrate

April 1, 2015

A ~147 million-year-old Jurassic-aged osteoglossoid osteoglossomorph fish Paralycoptera from outcrops at Lai Chi Chong has been described. This fossil represents the first dinosaur-era fish – as well as vertebrate – from Hong Kong to be identified.

The fossil was rediscovered in the collections of the Stephen Hui Geological Museum by Mr. Edison Tse Tze-kei, graduate of the Class of 2014, Department of Earth Sciences. Edison studied the specimen during his Summer Research Fellowship Scheme and Earth Sciences Major final-year project, under the supervision of Dr. Michael Pittman who leads the University’s Vertebrate Palaeontology Laboratory and is an expert on dinosaur evolution, as well as Professor Chang Mee-mann, an Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) in Beijing. A paper on this study has recently been published in the open-access journal PeerJ, demonstrating international recognition of the outstanding ability of our science undergraduate students in conducting scientific research.

The fossil consists of the posterior portion of a small, about 4cm long osteoglossoid osteoglossomorph fish from the genus Paralycoptera, and was collected at Lai Chi Chong, Tolo Channel, from rocks that have been previously radiometrically dated to 146.6 ± 0.2 million years old (Tithonian stage of the Late Jurassic). Paralycoptera is a typical member of the Mesoclupea fish fauna of Southeast China. Its discovery in Hong Kong extends the geographic range of the genus - and potentially of the Mesoclupea fish fauna - by about 700 km further south. The Jurassic-age of the Hong Kong specimen extends the temporal range of the genus about 40 million years back in time because all mainland specimens are currently known from the Early Cretaceous.

This study improves our understanding of the habitat of Paralycoptera, based on the geological information preserved at Lai Chi Chong, a beautiful tidal rock outcrop within the Hong Kong Global Geopark of China. Elaborating on this, Mr. Tse said, ‘Our Paralycoptera specimen appears to have lived in a tropical-subtropical freshwater lake that was periodically subjected to catastrophic volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.’ Dr Pittman said that undergraduate students worldwide typically do not publish peer-reviewed research, so Edison’s valuable contribution towards Hong Kong palaeontology is a credit to him and the research ability of HKU science students.

For the journal article, please visit

(From the left) Mr. Edison Tse Tze-kei and Dr. Michael Pittman, Research Assistant Professor