Dinosaur-Era Shark Nabbed Flying Reptile, Losing a Tooth

Fossil proof paints a paleontological scene of a fight in between a shark and a flying reptile called a pteranodon.

Credit: Mark Witton

More than 80 million years back, a winged reptile called a pteranodon bobbed placidly on the waves of the Western Interior Seaway, which ran directly through what is today The United States and Canada. Unexpectedly, the water listed below the flying reptile emerged into froth, teeth and sharkskin. When the turmoil cleared, the pteranodon was dead and a beast of a shark was missing out on a tooth.

That’s the photo painted by a brand-new paper released online Dec. 14 in the journal PeerJ about a curious fossil: a partial skeleton of a Late Cretaceous pteranodon with an almost 1-inch-long (24 millimeters) shark tooth embedded in its neck.

Approved, the scientists composed, the story might be a bit more ordinary. Possibly the shark just scavenged the drifting carcass of an already-dead pteranodon. In any case, the fossil is an unusual record of the sea and the sky conference in the time of the dinosaurs

” We have actually got great direct proof that a good-sized shark took a piece out of a huge flying reptile over 80 million years back,” stated research study co-author Michael Habib, a paleontologist at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medication. “It’s quite cool.” [Photos of Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs]

The fossil with the tooth ingrained is on show and tell at the Nature Museum of Los Angeles County, however it was discovered in Kansas in1965 In the Late Cretaceous, what is today Kansas was under the shallow Western Interior Seaway, which covered much of the center of The United States and Canada. The types of pteranodon in this discover is unidentified, however it likely lived in between about 86 million and 83 million years back. It was a huge animal, with a wingspan about 16.4 feet (5 meters) throughout.

Scientists found a shark tooth embedded in the neck vertebrae (B) of a pteranodon fossil (A).

Researchers discovered a shark tooth embedded in the neck vertebrae (B) of a pteranodon fossil (A).

Credit: (A) Stephanie Abramowicz, courtesy Dinosaur Institute, Nature Museum of Los Angeles County; (B) David Hone

The shark tooth came from a types called Cretoxyrhina mantelli, which is now extinct. Sharks of this types might have grown as long as 23 feet (7 m), however based upon the tooth size, Habib and his coworkers approximated that the one that bit the pteranodon had to do with 8 feet (2.5 m) long.

Habib and his coworkers chose to study the specimen after it was taken out of storage and place on irreversible display screen in the museum. Tourist guide explained the tooth to visitors, Habib stated, and visitors asked how paleontologists understood the tooth originated from a bite, instead of simply wandering into the pteranodon’s carcass throughout fossilization. It was an excellent concern, Habib stated, so the research study group chose to tackle it. (Habib is a research study partner at the museum.)

The very first thing the group discovered is that the fossil most likely does catch a shark-versus-pteranodon minute. The tooth is wedged well under among the protrusions of a vertebrae, Habib stated, which would need a great deal of strong existing if it just wandered there. The sediment where the fossils were discovered, however, shows reasonably placid waters.

” There’s no chance for it to wander into that position,” Habib stated.

Though there will never ever be a method to understand for sure whether the shark hunted or scavenged the pteranodon, the authors provided a restoration of the possible scene, revealing a shark breaching the water to take its victim. Modern sharks often do this, Habib stated. They get up a complete head of steam to strike a drifting seabird as quick and as difficult as possible, breaking the water’s surface area as they get the bird.

The ancient shark most likely would have likewise hunted in this method, Habib stated, due to the fact that biomechanics research studies on pteranodons recommend that the animals would have had the ability to remove from the water in about a 2nd and a half. That’s sluggish enough for a shark to capture such victim, however the toothy fish would need to fast.

” What we can state is the body morphology and shapes and size of these sharks ought to enable them to do that,” he stated. “It’s most likely a respectable method of capturing a flying reptile like this.”

Initially released on Live Science