An ancient shark tooth was stolen from its secret location in a World Heritage site in Australia, triggering an investigation and the difficult task of trying to retrieve the fossil.
The fossilized tooth, which is estimated to be around 2 million to 2.5 million years old, belonged to a Megalodon, the biggest shark that ever roamed the Earth's oceans.
Megalodon Tooth Stolen From Secret Location
According to Arvid Hogstrom of Western Australia's Parks and Wildlife Service, the location of the stolen fossil was considered a secret, with "very few people" knowing where it is. In fact, the staff tried to hide the fossil by covering it with natural features such as rocks, while thinking about the method for the tooth's preservation.
"But unfortunately, someone has beaten us to it," said Hogstrom.
The authorities do not even know when exactly it was stolen, as the ancient shark tooth was in a remote area of the reserve so it was not checked daily. There are actually two Megalodon tooth fossils in Ningaloo Coast, but the missing one was considered the better specimen.
What Would A Thief Do With An Ancient Shark Tooth?
According to Hogstrom, the Megalodon tooth fossil was not simply something that anybody may have seen and decided to take home with them. The thief knew that it was an ancient shark tooth, and put in the required effort to retrieve it from the rock where it was embedded.
The tooth was believed to have been taken out using a hammer or a chisel, which would be considered a violation of conservation laws. The purpose of the theft is not likely for profit, however. While the monetary value of the fossil was not determined, it "would not be very high."
"We presume an amateur collector [has taken it] or someone that just wants to have a fossil sitting on their mantelpiece," Hogstrom added.
The Extinction Of The Megalodon
Megalodon sharks were fearsome predators, with lengths of up to 59 feet and teeth the size of human hands. The ancient sharks, however, went extinct 2.6 million years ago, and it is believed that competition over food and the scarcity of prey were the reasons for their disappearance.
Researchers believe that the extinction of the Megalodon sharks allowed whales to grow in size, and eventually claim the title as the largest animal on Earth.