Man stumbles upon rare 25-million-year-old teeth of mega-toothed shark
SURF COAST, AUSTRALIA â" Amateur fossil enthusiast Phil Mullaly knew he had found something special when he spotted something glimmering in a boulder.
Mullaly was walking along Jan Juc, a renowned fossil site along Victoriaâs Surf Coast in south Australia, when he spotted a partially exposed shark tooth in the rock.
âI was immediately excited, it was just perfect,â Mullaly said.
That was just one of multiple teeth Mullaly found that day in 2015. Three years later, scientists have confirmed his hunch, saying Thursday that the teeth are all about 25 million years old and belonged to an extinct species of mega-toothed shark â" the Great Jagged Narrow-Toothed Shark (Carcharocles angustidens).Related Story
Video shows breaching great white shark startle researcher
The ancient shark was believed to grow up to about 9 meters (30 feet) long, double the size of a great white shark. The teeth discovered on the beach were around 7 cm (2.75 inches) in length.
Mullalyâs is one of the rarest finds in the history of paleontology, according to Erich Fitzgerald, a palaeontologist at Museums Victoria who led a team to excavate the site where the initial fossils were found.
âIf you think about how long weâve been looking for fossils around the world as a civilization â" which is maybe 200 years â" in (that time) we have found just three (sets of) fossils of this kind on the entire planet, and this most recent find from Australia is one of those three,â Fitzgerald told CNN.
âMy jaw sort of droppedâ
Fitzgerald said he was first contacted by Mullaly last year about a different discovery, during which he briefly mentioned the find at Jan Juc, but it wasnât until the amateur fossil hunter brought the teeth into the museum that Fitzgerald realized how significant the discovery was.
Sharks have the ability to regrow teeth, and can lose up to a tooth a day. That cartilage does not easily decompose, which is why individual shark tooth fossils are somewhat common. However, Fitzgerald said that finding multiple teeth from a single shark is extremely rare.
âThat doesnât happen. That just doesnât happen. Thatâs only happened once before in Australia, and that was a totally different species of shark,â he said.Related Story
For an Enfield scuba shop owner, every week is âShark Weekâ
When Mullaly told him the boulder he found was still on the beach, Fitzgerald said âmy jaw sort of dropped.â
Fitzgerald organized a team to get down to the south Australia coast. They chose to conduct the excavation in December 2017, when the tides were low. Within 20 minutes of searching, Fitzgeraldâs team started to find teeth.
In the end, they extracted more than 40 different specimens. Fitzgerald attributes the finds to dogged work and a bit of luck.
âPaleontology is one of the last branches of science where serendipity, where chance events, timing, coincidence plays a most vital role,â he said.Related Story
Alligator caught on video eating shark off South Carolina coast
âOn that particular day at that particular time, Phil Mullaly was the right man for the job on that beach on the southern coast of Australia.â
Sharks eating sharks
The teeth Fitzgeraldâs team found didnât just belong to the Great Jagged Narrow-Too thed Shark. They also found teeth belonging to several different Sixgill sharks (Hexanchus), Museums Victoria said, a species that still roams Australiaâs coastal waters.
Researchers believe those teeth were left behind as a result of getting lodged in the carcass of the Great Jagged Narrow-Toothed Shark as smaller sharks fed on it after the much larger animal died.
âThe teeth of the sixgill shark work like a crosscut saw, and tore into the Carcharocles angustidens like loggers felling a tree. The stench of blood and decaying flesh would have drawn scavengers from far around,â Museums Victoria palaeontologist Tim Ziegler said in a statement.
âSixgill sharks still live off the Victorian coast today, where they live off the remains of whales and other animals. This find suggests they have performed that lifestyle here for tens of millions of years.â
Fitzgeraldâs team has finished their field research and are now working t o learn more about how the teeth of the Great Jagged Narrow-Toothed shark developed in order to better understand its evolutionary history.
âIf we can find out any more clues about the lifestyle (and) the ecology of this extinct species, that might shed light as to what led to its extinction,â he said.
Fitzgerald said he believes there may be even more shark teeth at Jan Juc and even parts of a spinal column lodged in the cliff, based on what he saw during the excavation. For now, those potential samples are about 20 meters (65 feet) high, out of the reach of excavators.
âIâm willing to bet thereâs more up there,â he said. âWeâll be waiting and ready for the next expedition down to salvage a giant prehistoric shark.â-38.312818 143.997678Source: Google News US Science | Netizen 24 United States