Extinct Giant Shark Nursery Discovered
|The six-foot long babies of the world's biggest shark species spent this vulnerable stage of their lives in shallow water.|
"Adult giant sharks, at 60 to 70 feet in length, faced few predators, but young sharks faced predation from larger sharks," said Catalina Pimiento, visiting scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and graduate student at the University of Florida. "As in several modern shark species, juvenile giant sharks probably spent this vulnerable stage of their lives in shallow water where food was plentiful and large predators had difficulty maneuvering."
Paleontologists from STRI and the University of Florida collected more than 400 fossil shark teeth from Panama´s 10-million-year-old Gatun Formation as part of ongoing work to reveal the origins of this narrow land bridge that rose to connect North and South America about three million years ago.
"The 28 teeth that we identified as C. megalodon were almost all from neonates and juveniles," said Pimiento.
Researchers used reference collections at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History and the Florida Museum of Natural History to characterize the teeth.
The team discarded several other explanations for the concentration of small teeth at the site. Prior to their discovery in Panama, two other fossil beds have been proposed as paleo-shark nurseries: The Williamsburg Formation from the Paleocene and the Oligocene Chandler Bridge Formation, both in South Carolina.
The sandy soils of the Gatun Formation have been used for years to make cement. Soon, these outcrops will be exhausted. Scientists continue to race against the clock to find out more about the ancient inhabitants of the region.
These results, generated with funds from the U.S. National Science Foundation, are published online in the journal PloS ONE.