Offbeat New Ancient Shark Species Discovered in Alabama

19:07  10 january  2018
19:07  10 january  2018 Source:   Newsweek

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Jun Ebersole -- director of collections at the McWane Center and lead author of the paper describing the new species -- said the shark was named the Bryant shark in honor of the family of the former Alabama football coach to recognize their contributions to education in the state.

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A megaoldon tooth (center) and three Bryant shark teeth (right.)© Provided by IBT Media A megaoldon tooth (center) and three Bryant shark teeth (right.) Imagine a great white shark as long as a bowling lane, with teeth that could grow up to the size of your hand. Does this sound like the monster in a B-movie? Well, yes, megalodon is the star of several low-budget thrillers, but it was also a real animal. From 23 million to 2.6 million years ago, the largest shark that ever lived ruled the warm waters of the world.

Now, scientists have discovered a dinosaur-era shark may have been an even earlier ancestor of megalodon, illustrating the evolution of one of the most fearsome creatures to swim the earth.

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Most ancient shark species are named using isolated teeth, but analysis of C. hubbelli, also known as Hubbell's white shark , was Extinct giant shark nursery discovered in Panama. May 17, 2010. New study illustrates the physics behind great white shark attacks on seals. December 9, 2011.

Tiny, exceptionally sharp teeth belonged to an ancient relative of the angel shark , or monk fish, a bizarre species that Jason Gillikin discovered the fossil-rich creek during his time with the Alabama Forestry NEW DOCUMENTARY. Alabama 's 60,000-year-old underwater forest spills its secrets ».

Paleontologists have been collecting fossilized ancient shark teeth in Alabama for decades. After nearly 50 years, the collection was large enough to enable paleontologists to name and describe a new species: Cretalamna bryanti, or the Bryant shark.

Researchers from the University of Alabama and the McWane Science Center, also in Alabama, identified 33 teeth belonging to this species. The teeth described in their study and formal description of the animal, published in the journal PeerJ , were found between 1980 and 2011 in the Black Belt region of Alabama. This 240-mile region reaches from the northwest corner of the state into the center and provides a snapshot of the Upper Cretaceous period, which stretched from 100.5 to 66 million years ago, that is "nearly perfect," the study authors write. C. bryanti lived about 83 million years ago and gave rise to a variety of ancient shark species, including megalodon.

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Discovering a new species is, among biologists, akin to hitting a grand slam, and University of South Carolina In the journal Zootaxa, they describe a rare shark , the Carolina hammerhead, that had long eluded discovery because it is outwardly indistinguishable from the common scalloped hammerhead.

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Paleontologists almost never find shark fossils that represent anything other than the teeth of the animals. That’s because sharks have bones only in their mouths; their “skeletons” are made of cartilage, a soft tissue that rarely leaves fossil remains. Modern sharks give us the best clues about how their extinct ancestors may have looked, which is why artists and filmmakers often portray megalodon as a great white shark, but scaled up.

The Bryant shark was an early member of a group of “mega-tooth” sharks, most of which went extinct at the same time as the non-bird dinosaurs 66 million years ago. The teeth on this shark were much smaller than those of megalodon; the biggest Bryant shark tooth discovered so far is only an inch long. That also means that its body probably was about 15 feet long.

Over time, study co-author Jun Ebersole, director of collections at McWane Science Center, told LiveScience, sharks in the megalodon line, "grow to enormous sizes." This new study adds to our understanding of the ancient, giant creatures that once swam the saltwater seas of what is now Alabama.

The researchers named the shark after football player Paul "Bear" Bryant, who coached the University of Alabama's football team for 25 years.

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