AUSTRALIA (CNN) – The passionate amateur fossil Phil Mullaly knew he had found something special when he spotted something shiny in a boulder.
Mullaly was walking along Jan Juc, a renowned fossil site along the Victoria's Surf Coast in southern Australia, when he spotted a partially exposed shark tooth in the rock.
"I was immediately excited, it was just perfect," said Mullaly.
That was just one of the multiple teeth Mullaly found that day in 2015. Three years later, the scientists confirmed his opinion, saying that the teeth are all about 25 million years old and belonged to an extinct shark species mega-toothed – the large toothed shark with narrow teeth (Carcharocles angustidens).
It was believed that the ancient shark grew up to about 9 meters (30 feet) in length, twice the size of a great white shark. The teeth discovered on the beach were about 7 cm long
. Mullaly is one of the rarest finds in the history of palaeontology, according to Erich Fitzgerald, a paleontologist at the Museums Victoria who led a team to excavate site where the first fossils were found.
"If you think about how long we have looked for fossils around the world as a civilization – which is perhaps 200 years – in (that time) we have only found three (sets of) fossils of this kind on the whole planet, and this most recent discovery from Australia is one of these three, "Fitzgerald told CNN.
"My jaw fell"
Fitzgerald said that he was contacted for the first time by Mullaly last year on a different discovery, during which he briefly mentioned the discovery of Jan Juc, but it was only when the amateur fossil hunter brought his teeth into the museum that Fitzgerald understood how meaningful the discovery was.
Sharks have the ability to re-grow their teeth and can lose up to one tooth a day. Cartilage does not decompose easily, which is why individual shark teeth fossils are quite common. However, Fitzgerald said that finding more teeth from a single shark is extremely rare.
"This does not happen, but it does not happen, it happened only once in Australia, and this was a completely different species of shark" (19659006) When Mullaly told him that the boulder he was still on the beach, Fitzgerald said " my jaw fell ".
Dr. Erich Fitzgerald at the Jan Juc site where the fossil was found.
Fitzgerald organized a team to reach the south coast of Australia. They chose to conduct the excavation in December 2017, when the tides were low. Within 20 minutes of the search, Fitzgerald's team started to find their teeth.
In the end, they extracted more than 40 different samples. Fitzgerald attributes the findings to stubborn work and a bit of luck
"Paleontology is one of the last branches of science in which serendipity, where random events, timing, coincidences play a fundamental role," he said.
"On that particular day at that particular moment, Phil Mullaly was the right man for work on that beach on the southern coast of Australia."
Sharks eat sharks
I teeth found by the Fitzgerald team did not belong only to the large serrated serrated shark. They also found teeth belonging to several sharks Sixgill (Hexanchus), said Victoria, a species that still wanders in the coastal waters of Australia.
Researchers believe that those teeth were left behind as a result of being housed in the carcass of the Great Jagged Shark with narrow teeth while the smaller sharks were nourished after the death of the much larger animal.
What are the prospects? ?
The Fitzgerald team has completed field research and is now working to learn more about how the teeth of the Great Jagged Narrow – toothed shark developed to better understand its evolutionary history.
"If we can find other clues about the lifestyle (and) ecology of this extinct species, it could shed light on what led to its extinction"
Fitzgerald said he believes Jan Juc and even some parts of a spinal column were set in the rock, depending on what he saw during the excavation, there could be even more shark teeth. meters (65 feet) tall, out of reach of excavators.
"I am willing to bet that there is more up there," he said. "We will be waiting and ready for the next shipment down to save a giant prehistoric shark."
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