300 million-year-old ‘supershark’ fossils found in Texas

The well-preserved fossil of a 300-million-year-old shark from New Mexico. The “Texas supershark” fossils (not pictured) are less complete, but suggest the supershark was even larger than the New Mexican shark. Credit: John-Paul Hodnett 

Previously, giant sharks had only been recovered from rock dating back 130 million years, during the age of the dinosaurs. The largest shark that ever lived, commonly called “Megalodon”, is much younger, with an oldest occurrence at about 15 million years ago. This means the new fossils from Texas indicate giant sharks go much further back into the fossil record.

After the generous donation of these fossils and careful study with Dr. John Maisey of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the team was able to estimate how big the entire sharks would have been by comparison with smaller and more complete fossils of closely related sharks. The results were very impressive.

The size range estimated for these two Texas ‘supersharks’ was between 18 and 26 feet in length (5.5 to 8 meters). The largest of these specimens was 25% bigger than today’s largest predatory shark, the Great White. Although not nearly as large as Megalodon, which might have reached up to 67 feet in length (about 20 meters), the fossil sharks from Texas would have been by far the biggest sharks in the sea.

These fossil braincases may belong to an extinct species of shark called Glikmanius occidentalis, or they may represent a new and larger related species that is new to science. Closely related sharks are known from as far off as Scotland, showing this group of sharks was capable of dispersing across great distances.

Maisey, McKinzie, and Williams timed their research results very well, being able to present their Texas ‘supershark’ at the annual meeting for the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in Dallas, Texas. According to Maisey, even 300 million years ago, “everything is bigger in Texas!”

Note: The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.

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