They consist of a series of bony struts, and are mostly open through the middle of the bone. They’re quite different from most of the fish vertebrae we find, which also have the bone struts but are solid through the middle, as shown in the vertebra below (six views of one specimen):
For a long time I thought that the airy, strut vertebrae were just normal vertebrae that had been eroded and damaged. I’ve gradually come to believe that they are not damaged at all, but are actually well preserved. In part this is because we’ve found several of them now, and in part it’s because they include quite delicate structures that should have been lost if the bone was eroded either chemically or mechanically.
So, given that the structure of these vertebrae seems to be real (rather than a taphonomic artifact), what kind of fish do they represent? Presumably they belong to some type of fish in which the vertebral column doesn’t completely ossify, but still an osteichthyan (bony fish), as sharks have a completely different vertebral structure. Ocean sunfish famously have poorly ossified skeletons, and are already known from Carmel Church, so that might be a possibility. Are there other candidates?
Anyone have any suggestions?