This Shark Week, let's celebrate the amazing work of paleontologists who continue to piece together the long and fascinating story of sharks' past.
Sharks have been around for over 400 million years, long before the dinosaurs, and we're still learning more every day about their impressive history.
From a 20-meter megalodon to an ancient shark nursery, here’s our roundup of all the biggest recent shark discoveries published here in Palaeontologia Electronica, all of which are open-access papers, always free for anyone to read!
1. Three new species of shark, from an ancient tropical lagoon
In this 2020 study, researchers analyzed thousands of shark and ray teeth from Eocene lagoonal deposits in Tunisia, discovering three new species of shark. The species fill critical gaps in the fossil record, representing the evolutionary transition to modern sharks during a period of global warming known as the Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum.
2. The monstrous megalodon may have been even bigger than we thought
Researchers developed new equations to estimate the size of a megalodon based on tooth width rather than length. Published in 2021, this more reliable method generated a maximum body length estimate of 20 meters long, about 4 times the size of a great white shark!
3. With the right ID guides, citizen scientists document shark fossils like pros
This study compared three image-based identification guides, finding that color photographic images lead to the most accurate identifications by citizen scientists. Citizen science is a fantastic way to share the wonders of paleontology with a wider audience while generating high volumes of valuable data. Learn more in the full article, published in 2020.
4. 25-million-year-old baby sharks
This 2021 study identifies an Oligocene shark nursery from a collection of Carcharocles angustidens teeth found near South Carolina. The evidence suggests these megatoothed sharks inhabited shallow, protected environments with abundant prey as newborns and juveniles, similarly to many sharks living today.
5. The bizarre teeth of a Carboniferous shark
Researchers used 2D microwear analysis to gain insight on the function of the ancient Edestus shark’s scissor-like teeth. Scratches across of the faces of the teeth suggest these sharks’ jaws may have cut prey independently of one another in a vertical-slashing motion. Learn more on this 2019 study in our blog post, or read the full paper here.
Happy Shark Week everyone!