Chinese researchers have tracked the "exceptionally well-preserved fossils" to the Middle Triassic of China (235-242 million years ago). The Triassic period saw the re-establishment of ecosystems after the Permian mass extinction.
The fossils represent new evidence that marine ecosystems re-established more quickly than previously thought. The Permian mass extinction had a bigger impact on the earth's ecological systems than any other mass extinction, wiping out 90-95% of marine species.
Previous studies have suggested that Triassic marine life developed more quickly than was once thought and that marine ecosystems were re-established more rapidly than terrestrial ecosystems.
The new research, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal, was carried out by scientists from Peking University, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Zhejiang Museum of Natural History. The study shows that the new flying fish, named Potanichthys xingyiensis, was 153mm long and had the "unusual combination of morphological features" associated with gliding strategy in fishes.
The fossils show an asymmetrical, forked caudal (tail) fin and a "four-winged" body formation: a pair of enlarged pectoral fins forming "primary wings", and a smaller pair of pelvic fins acting as "auxiliary wings", according to the study.