Paleontologists have discovered the remains of a shark that used to rule the seas some 330 million years ago in a wall at a Kentucky cave.
The rare find was made by experts Rick Toomey and Rick Olson who came across the remains of the head of the prehistoric predator while exploring the Mammoth Cave National Park according to senior paleontologist Vincent Santucci.
While the scientists initially struggled to determine what animal the fossilized teeth and the cartilage belong to, they sent photos of the finding to an expert on Paleozoic sharks in hopes of getting a clear answer.
“One set of photos showed a number of shark teeth associated with large sections of fossilized cartilage, suggesting there might be a shark skeleton preserved in the cave,” paleontologist John-Paul Hodnett said.
“I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to see in the cave during my trip in November. When we got to our target specimen my mind was blown.”
According to the experts, shark skeletons are incredibly rare because cartilage typically doesn’t survive the process of fossilization, making the find that much more intriguing.
After inspecting the fossil, which included the shark’s teeth, lower jaw, and skull cartilage, the experts concluded the specimen was most likely a member of the Saivodus striatus species that dominated the seas some 330 million years ago.
“A field team from Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission’s Dinosaur Park made some amazing discoveries of Late Mississippian shark fossils inside Mammoth Cave!” the Mammoth Cave National Park confirmed in an Instagram post.
“The Mammoth Cave National Park Fossil Shark Research Project has already documented over 100 individual specimens of sharks from inside the cave system! Their findings even included parts of a large shark head.
“Based on what they see exposed in the cave wall there is a lower jaw, indeterminate cranial cartilages, and several teeth to a shark approximately the size of a living Great White Shark.
“Shark teeth are made of bone and enamel which does preserve well, but shark skeletons are extremely rare because cartilage doesn’t always preserve in the fossil record.
The preservation of these shark fossils is superb.Because the cave is not exposed to external elements such as rain, snow, and wind, the rate of erosion of the limestone in the cave is slow so fossils tend to be very detailed and mostly intact.
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