Phil Mullaly is a fossil enthusiast who had no idea that walking on the beach will end with a magnificent discovery. He was walking along Jan Juc, a fossil site in South Australia when he saw something glinting in a rock. It was a piece of a shark tooth.
“I was immediately excited, it was just perfect,” said Mullaly.
But Mullaly had only found a tooth. Talking to Erich Fitzgerald, a paleontologist at Museums Victoria, he immediately formed a team to excavate that site where the tooth was found. Mullaly told him that the boulder was still on the beach, and Fitzgerald said “my jaw sort of dropped.”
Back in December, the tides were low and perfect for the excavation. After 20 minutes of searching for the teeth, the team started to find multiple teeth, finding 40 specimens, most coming from the same species. Fitzgerald said that finding more teeth from a single shark is very rare.
After three years from Mullaly’s discovery, the team analyzed all the teeth, concluding that his discovery was unbelievably rare. They belonged to a 25 million years old species of a shark known as the Great Jagged Narrow-Toothed Shark (Carcharocles angustidens).
This shark was about 9 meters (30 feet) long, which is double than the great white shark. Fitzgerald explains why this discovery is vital for our world:
“If you think about how long we’ve been looking for fossils around the world as a civilization — which is maybe 200 years — in (that time) we have found just three (sets of) fossils of this kind on the entire planet, and this most recent find from Australia is one of those three.”
The Next Step
After finishing their research, the team at Museums Victoria is trying to find out more about the Great Jagged Narrow-Toothed shark and see how it evolved and went extinct:
“If we can find out any more clues about the lifestyle (and) the ecology of this extinct species, that might shed light as to what led to its extinction,” he said.
Check out the video posted by Museums Victoria on this discovery.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.