Ancient sharks found in Mammoth Cave, Kentucky

Remains of six species of ancient sharks previously unknown to science have been discovered in Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave National Park. Researchers have described the site as “one of the most diverse Mississippian sharks in North America.”

Remains of at least 40 different species of sharks and close relatives have been found in remote cave locations inside the park, since survey efforts began 10 months ago. The six previously unknown species include large predators and small bottom-feeders.

The fossils may be more than 5૨5 million years old, dating to the late Paleozoic era during the Mississippian period, when the limestones of the mammoth cave system were formed.

John-Paul Hodnett, a paleontologist at the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission, said John-Paul Hodnett, a paleontologist at the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission, who was hired specifically for the project, said the mammoth cave was being discovered. At times I am completely amazed by the variety of sharks.

“Since other teeth or vertebrae were found in the ceiling or wall of the cave, we could hardly move more than a few feet. We are seeing a range of different species of chondrichuans. [cartilaginous fish] Which largely fills a variety of ecological structures, from predators to tiny sharks, living between chronoids. [sea lily] There was a forest or their abode on the seabed. “

The National Parks Service (NPS) has said that the description of the new species and its name will be given in the next scientific publication.

The shark fossils found in Mammoth Cave have mainly teeth and fin spines, as the cartilage, which is softer than bone, forms most of the shark’s skeleton.

However, two partial cartilaginous skeletons of various shark species have also been found in Mammoth Cave.

One specimen was discovered by a cave research foundation caver and the other had been known by the park’s guides for years, the NPSA said.

“The preservation of cartilage in the layers of Paleozoic rock is a very rare phenomenon and the team moved these specimens for full documentation.”

Most of the shark fossils have been found in areas that are inaccessible to visitors on cave tours, but park staff have created 3D models of cartilaginous shark fossils, and three-dimensional models for photographs, artist presentations and displays. Preparing.

White tip reef shark
A white tip reef shark (Trianodon obese) is pictured resting on April 22, 2018 at Tubatahha Reef, Sulu Sea, Philippines. A team of paleontologists, cave experts and park rangers have found at least 40 ancient shark species in Mammoth Cave, Kentucky.
Alexis Rosenfeld / Getty Images

“We are very excited to find such an important mass of fossils in the park,” said Rick Toomey, a cave resource management specialist and research coordinator at Mammoth Cave National Park.

“Although we know there were some shark teeth exposed in the limestone in the cave, we never thought there would be an abundance and variety of sharks identified by JP Hodnet.”