“Shell crusher” shark swam Cretaceous Kansas 90 mln yrs ago

February 24th, 2010 - 2:44 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Feb 24 (ANI): A team of paleontologists has identified the remains of a gigantic, 88.7-million-year-old shark nicknamed the “shell crusher”, which could pulverize large, shelled animals with its 1,000 teeth, while swimming in the Cretaceous waters in Kansas and other parts of North America.

A handful of other fossils for the shark, Ptychodus mortoni, had been previously found and hinted that the species was extremely big.

According to a report in Discovery News, the new discoveries support that contention and reveal that the shark likely grew to at least 33 feet in length and chomped on its prey with its 3-foot-long jaw.

Its specialized teeth were just as impressive as its body size.

“Unlike ‘conventional sharks,’ Ptychodus mortoni possessed pavement-like upper and lower dental plates consisting of juxtaposed rows of massive teeth suited for crushing,” lead author Kenshu Shimada, a research associate in paleontology at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History, told Discovery News.

“The shark could have practiced suction feeding, but larger prey, such as giant clams, would have required the shark to pick them up directly with its mouth from the bottom of the ocean floor,” he added.

His team identified a portion of a right upper jaw, 19 teeth and multiple oral and dermal scales for the shark, now housed at the Sternberg Museum.

The scientists originally found the remains embedded in a vertical rock cliff in Kansas called the Fort Hays Limestone.

“It took pretty much the whole day to just extract the fragmentary specimen, and more skeletal and dental parts of the shark are likely still present deep in the rock that we just simply cannot get to,” said Shimada.

For example, the rock may contain additional teeth.

This shark is believed to have had 1,000 in total, some of which were replacement teeth ready to be used when others fell out.

The known remains, along with prior finds, suggest “Ptychodus possibly resembled the modern nurse shark, which has a broad, rounded head with a stout body.”

The two sharks, however, were not closely related to each other.

During the Late Cretaceous, this shark was probably a “sluggish bottom dweller” in a seaway covering today’s Kansas and other parts of North America. (ANI)

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