Scientists have discovered a new species of shark that had ‘fangs’ when it hunted the waters along Alabama 65 million years ago.
The team uncovered 17 fossilized teeth that have been sitting at a Geological Survey in Wilcox County for mover 100 years and realized the remains were nothing like anything on record – living or extinct.
The shark, named the Palaeohypotodus bizzocoi, could have been around 10 feet long, similar to a Sand Tiger Shark, and was believed to be a main predator at the time when dinosaurs were wiped from our planet.
Scientists found 17 tooth fossils at the Geological Survey in Tuscaloosa, Alabama
The tooth fossils were found over 100 years ago at the McConnico Plantation in Wilcox County, AL
Jun Ebersole, the Director of Collections at McWane Science Center said he came across the collection of tooth fossils a few years ago.
‘It is always exciting to discover a species that is new to science, but this one was particularly interesting due to the time period this shark lived,’ Ebersole told Dailymail.com.
‘In this region, we do not know much about the marine life that lived during the Paleocene, so gaining additional insights into this time interval was especially exciting.’
The team found the teeth collecting dust in a small box among a collection of other fossils.
After an investigation, researchers conclude that remains belonged to the same ancient predator.
Ebersole and his team compared the teeth to other living sharks, including Great Whites and Makos, and found that they differed in shape depending on the placement in the tooth cavity.
‘By studying the jaws and teeth of living sharks, it allowed us to reconstruct the dentition of this ancient species and showed that it had a tooth arrangement that diﬀered from any living shark,’ said David Cicimurri, the Curator of Natural History.
Scientists compared the tooth fossil to a Sandtiger shark which is reportedly the closest species to the bozzocoi fossil
Of the 17 teeth collected, only nine were complete – the remaining eight tooth fossils consist of just the main cusp or are missing some or all of its roots.
The Palaeohypotodus had small need-like fangs protruding from its jaws, which can be found in living sharks that feast on bony fish, crustaceans and squids.
The extinct species was believed to have the size and flattened, cone-sharped snout of a modern-day Sand Tiger Shark, which is commonly found off the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida – all closely located to Alabama.
When Palaeohypotodus ruled the seas, the lower half of Alabama was covered by a shallow tropical to subtropical ocean.
The team said that is why the fossils were found so far inland – Wilcox County is about 200 miles from the Gulf of Mexico.
Scientists found 17 teeth that came from an extinct shark that lived 65 million years ago
‘Shark discoveries like this one give us tremendous insights into how ocean life recovers after major extinction events and also allow us to potentially forecast how global events, like climate change, affect marine life today,’ said T. Lynn Harrell, Jr., paleontologist and fossil collections curator at the Geological Survey.
Ebersole said they were able to determine the shark came from the Paleocene period because of the geological layer it came out of which is just above the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K/Pg) boundary.
The boundary marks the period of time between the last period of the dinosaurs, and the first period after the creates went extinct.
The new shark species was discovered in the layer just above the K/Pg Boundary, showing that it lived during the Paleocene period, roughly 65 million years ago.
Alabama is one of the most well-preserved areas in the world for the K/Pg Boundary, where the period is visible in the layers of rocks.