A skull of a shark has just been identified that lived 330 million years ago. The discovery took place in Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, which has the largest cave system known in the world with over 400 miles of caves.
Rick Olson and Rick Toomey, who are scientists at Mammoth Cave found the fossil. That fossil was then identified by a paleontologist team led by John-Paul Hodnett. According to their determination, it lived in the late Mississippian geological period.
As the fifth part of the Paleozoic era, the Mississippian subperiod or epic occurred between 358.9 and 323.2 million years ago. It is the first half of the Carboniferous period and the latter half is the Pennsylvanian subperiod, which was 323.2 to 298.9 million years ago. Most of North America was covered with shallow, warm water during that time. Other fossils discovered from that time include snails, various invertebrate and squid-like animals.
Mammoth Cave was visited by Hodnett and his team personally in November. A 2 1/2 foot long portion of the prehistoric shark’s jaw was unearthed. They feel that the shark would have been comparable to a great white from today. They feel that it was the species Saivodus striatus.
Images were shared by the field from inside of the cave system:
Additionally, some of the teeth and cartilage from the shark along with almost 100 other shark teeth were found in the area.
Although this shark is ancient, it is nowhere near as old as the older shark fossils that date back some 450 million years during the Ordovician Period. There have been fossilized skin scales of sharks found in Colorado sandstone and Central Australia. The earliest sharks may not have resembled today’s sharks as much as we would think. It may even be possible that those older sharks did not have teeth.
In Mammoth Cave, however, the shark’s jaw did have a set of powerful teeth. That being said, the older sharks teeth are two-pronged and quite small from the Devonian Period, the fourth part of the Paleozoic Era.
Hodnett shared pictures of one shark tooth found in Mammoth Cave.
It is thought that the shark’s jaw could just be the beginning of some interesting finds from the Kentucky team.
“Mammoth Cave has a rich fossil shark record and there’s still much more to uncover,” Hodnett said to CBS News.
Shark week may just have gotten a little more interesting.