Researchers have discovered the remains of an ancient shark 330 million years old in a cave in Kentucky.
Mammoth Cave National Park, in central Kentucky, hosts some of the Mammoth Cave System. It is the most extensive underground system in the world, with nearly 600 kilometers of galleries. Researchers Rick Olson and Rick Toomey discovered several teeth stuck in one of the walls while exploring the cave system.
They decided to take several photos and send them to Vincent Santucci, the senior paleontologist at the National Park Service in Washington, DC, for help in identifying the fossils. Santucci sent the photos to John-Paul Hodnett, a paleontologist at Dinosaur Park in Maryland.
Hodnett was quickly able to identify several shark teeth in the images. Nevertheless, he was intrigued by some of them that appeared to be associated with large sections of fossilized cartilage.
Finding shark teeth are very common. However, shark skeleton made of cartilage, much more difficult to be fossilized, which is why he was surprised. So he decided to come and check out the remains of his own. “I do not know exactly what I expected to find in this cave,” he told Courrier Journal. “When we arrived on the scene, I was amazed.”
Although the paleontologist was unable to isolate the complete skeleton, he was able to identify a skull, a lower jaw, some cartilage, and several remarkably well-preserved teeth.
As big as a great white shark
According to the paleontologist, these fossilized remains belong to a species of shark known as Saivodus striatus. The fossil must have been about the same size as a great white shark. This species evolved between 340 and 330 million years ago, at the end of the Mississippian geological period. Back then, the region was completely different and submerged under shallow tropical seas. So it is not surprising to find marine fossils in the area.