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New shark species discovered in Lowndes County

Published: Jul. 23, 2020 at 5:07 PM CDT
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July 22, 2020 at 6:51 PM CDT - Updated July 22 at 8:30 PM

LOWNDES COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - You would be hard pressed to find any sharks in Lowndes County, Alabama, which is nearly 200 miles from a major body of water, but that’s exactly what a team of scientists has done.

Fossilized teeth have been unearthed in Alabama of an ancient shark species that’s never identified before. Scientists believe the creature lived in the Gulf of Mexico during the Paleogene Period, about 65 million years ago, just after the extinction of dinosaurs.

Mennerotodus parmleyi teeth.
Mennerotodus parmleyi teeth.(Courtesy: McWane Science Center, Birmingham, AL.)

The new species, Mennerotodus mackayi, is being named in honor of John Mackay, the first president and CEO of the McWane Science Center in Birmingham.

The team that made the discovery includes paleontologist Jun Ebersole, the McWayne Center’s director of collections, as well as David Cicimurri, the curator of natural history at the South Carolina State Museum, and George Martin, a retired USDA soil scientist from Auburn.

The Lowndes County shark wasn’t the only new species discovered by the team. Another was also found in Central Georgia.

Photograph of a modern Sandtiger Shark.
Photograph of a modern Sandtiger Shark.(Courtesy: McWane Science Center, Birmingham, AL.)

“Like in modern Sandtiger Sharks, the front teeth in the mouths of the fossil species are very tall and fang-like” said Ebersole. “These teeth often project out of the mouth, giving the shark a snaggle-toothed appearance, and were perfect for feeding on fishes, crabs, squids, and even other sharks.”

While the new species are known only from their teeth, the scientists say it’s not possible to know exactly what they looked like. However, because of their similarities, it’s believed they were probably similar in appearance to the Sandtiger.

Close-up photograph of a modern Sandtiger Shark, which has teeth very similar to the new shark species discoveries in Alabama and Georgia.
Close-up photograph of a modern Sandtiger Shark, which has teeth very similar to the new shark species discoveries in Alabama and Georgia.(Courtesy: McWane Science Center, Birmingham, AL.)

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Original Story: https://www.wsfa.com/2020/07/22/new-shark-species-discovered-lowndes-county/

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