A citizen scientist’s fossil find is rare and exciting for various reasons. Apart from having discovered the fossilized teeth of an ancient mega shark, the find also revealed the millions-year-old practice of sharks living today.
Teacher Finds Mega Shark Teeth
It was on his visit to a local beach that school teacher Philip Mullaly discovered an incredible fossil find. As a fossil enthusiast, Mullaly was stalking Jan Juc for fossils when he saw a shining glint on a boulder, exposing a quarter of a massive tooth. Knowing that this might be a significant fossil find, he immediately contacted the Senior Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at Museums Victoria and offered to donate the fossils to the museum.
“It was just perfect and I knew it was an important find that needed to be shared with people,” said Mullaly.
Between December 2017 and January 2018, a team of paleontologists and volunteers dug out the entire boulder despite having only a small window of opportunity during low tide. In total, the team collected over 40 teeth, most of it belonging to an already extinct prehistoric mega shark, the Great Jagged Narrow-Toothed Shark, a massive shark species that could grow over 9 meters long or nearly twice as large as the Great White Shark.
Prehistoric Shark Feast
Amazingly, the Great Jagged Narrow-Toothed Shark teeth were revealed to belong to a single shark which is rather rare as almost all shark teeth finds are of a single tooth. This is because shark tend to lose a tooth a day, and the material that makes up shark skeletons does not easily fossilize.
Further, among the mega shark teeth were smaller teeth that evidently belonged to the several smaller Sixgill Sharks. According to Tim Ziegler, a paleontologist at Museums Victoria, the find reveals a scenario where the Sixgill Sharks were feasting on the carcass of the mega shark and that some of the teeth of the smaller sharks got dislodged in the process.
Zeigler notes that even today, Sixgill sharks still live on the Victorian coast where they continue to feast on the remains of whales and other larger animals. According to him, the find just shows that Sixgill sharks have been living the scavenger lifestyle for tens of milions of years.
Ancient Shark Teeth
If it were not for shark teeth, it’s possible that humans would know little about prehistoric sharks. As mentioned, this is because sharks are cartilaginous, making the teeth the only part of them that get to enter the fossil record. In fact, some prehistoric shark species are known only by the shape and size of their teeth.
Through millions of years of evolution, shark teeth have evolved to become the perfect tools for the marine predators’ method of feeding.