A 300 million-year-old shark relative, nicknamed the Godzilla shark after its discovery in 2013, has lastly obtained a correct identify after being categorized as its personal species.
Paleontologists discovered the unusually full and well-preserved 6.7-foot-long (2 meters) fossilized skeleton of the traditional shark at a non-public web site within the Manzano Mountains close to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Standout options of the skeleton embrace 12 rows of piercing tooth set in sturdy, highly effective jaws, and a pair of two.5-foot-long (0.8 m) fin spines on its again.
It was nicknamed the Godzilla shark due to its measurement — the skeleton is the most important fossil of its form ever found within the space — and the reptilian nature of the spines on its again, John-Paul Hodnett, who first unearthed the fossil and led the brand new analysis, informed Stay Science.
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“I’m additionally a giant fan of the Godzilla movie franchise,” Hodnett, a paleontologist on the Maryland-Nationwide Capital Parks and Planning Fee, mentioned. “So when the options of this shark got here to gentle, I believed it was the right nickname.”
The shark has now been formally named Hoffman’s dragon shark (Dracopristis hoffmanorum), after the household that owned the land the place the skeleton was discovered, and as an homage to its monstrous, reptilian look.
“It is rather uncommon to search out skeletal materials of historic sharks, not to mention an entire skeleton that additionally preserved the physique define and different delicate tissue impressions,” Hodnett mentioned. “That and it being a brand new species was additionally superb and distinctive.”
Hoffman’s dragon shark belonged to a gaggle of mysterious historic sharks often called the Ctenacanths which diverged from fashionable sharks and rays round 390 million years in the past throughout the Devonian Interval. The exquisitely preserved skeleton enabled the researchers to be taught extra about this poorly understood group.
One of many largest variations between the Ctenacanths and fashionable sharks is their jaws. “Their [Ctenacanths] jaws are bigger, extra firmly connected to the skull, making them much less versatile,” Hodnett mentioned.
These mounted jaws could imply Ctenacanths weren’t apex predators as fashionable sharks are. As an alternative, the brand new fossil suggests they might have occupied a unique ecological area of interest.
“From the anatomy of the pectoral fins and tail we suggest that Dracopristis was probably a predator that saved near the underside of the traditional lagoon estuary it lived in,” Hodnett mentioned. “The tooth are additionally extra tailored for greedy and crushing prey like crustaceans and small vertebrates.”
The massive spines on the again of Hoffman’s dragon sharks could have been used as protection in opposition to bigger sharks, the researchers recommend. Giant shark tooth discovered within the space present proof that that is the case, in line with a press assertion from the New Mexico Museum of Pure Historical past & Science (NMMNHS).
The Ctenacanths went extinct throughout the mass extinction occasion on the finish of the Permian Interval 252 million years in the past, which introduced an finish to the Paleozoic Period. Nonetheless, the precise reason behind the sharks’ demise remains to be unclear.
The researchers are actually in search of extra Ctenacanth fossils within the space to be taught extra about their life-history traits — evolutionary traits akin to longevity, progress fee, age of reproductive maturity and reproductive output.
“We won’t reliably reconstruct the life-history traits of a species based mostly on one specimen alone,” co-author Eileen Grogan, a biologist at Saint Joseph’s College in Philadelphia, informed Stay Science. “A extra holistic understanding of life-history traits requires higher sampling throughout sizes, sexes, and the environments during which the organism existed.”
The examine was revealed on-line April 15 in a NMMNHS Bulletin.
Initially revealed on Stay Science.