Scientists have discovered a new shark species from a 150-million-year-old fossil. The ancient fossil was found 20 years ago on England’s southern coast, which is now stored at the Etches Collection Museum of Jurassic Marine Life in Kimmeridge, England. The species belong to a family of sharks — hybodontiform — that are now extinct. Scientists named the genus and species of the new shark Durnonovariaodus maiseyi.
“Durnonovariaodus maiseyi represents an important source of information for better understanding the diversity of sharks in the past as well as for new interpretations of the evolution of hybodontiform sharks, whose relationships are still poorly understood, even after more than 150 years of research,” says Sebastian Stumpf, the lead researcher, in a news release by the University of Vienna. The study was published in PeerJ on May 11.
The shark was assigned to its family based on the shape of its tooth. According to scientists, shark teeth are among the most common fossil finds that belong to vertebrates. The reason behind this is that shark teeth are replaced life-long. However, their skeletons are mostly made of cartilage, the reason why they are poorly preserved and badly mineralised.
Scientists found the rare fossil at Kimmeridge Clay Formation, rock sediments that formed during the upper-Jurassic era — 150 million years ago — in the shallow layers of the North Sea in England. The family that the shark fossil belonged to first appeared 361 million years ago and went extinct 66 million years ago when an asteroid hit the earth with an impact equivalent to several million nuclear weapons detonating simultaneously. The violent event wiped three-fourths of all plant and animal life including dinosaurs.
However, some of the reasons for many shark species going extinct are still not understood by scientists. In a recent discovery, scientists at Yale University had found that about 19 million years ago, 70% of the world’s sharks had disappeared.
The Etches Collection museum has more undescribed shark skeletons, candidates to the same shark family, which will be studied and identified in years to come, according to the scientists.