During a recent fossil-based study, researchers have come to know that around 100 million years back, the shallow seas were home to giant sharks as big as a two-story building. The scientific name of the gigantic fish is Leptostyrax macrorhiza.
Scientists are saying that the massive fish was one of the biggest predators of its time. According to study coauthor Joseph Frederickson, this gigantic aquatic animal might push back researchers’ estimates regarding the time when such massive predators evolved. Frederickson is a doctoral student in evolutionary biology and ecology at the University of Oklahoma.
The discovery of this primitive sea giant was not part of a planned mission; it was discovered accidentally. Frederickson, who at that time was studying at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee as an undergraduate student, established a club for the amateur paleontologists; the group wanted to study and analyze fossil deposits.
In 2009, some members of the club visited the Duck Creek Formation, a place in Texas known for housing innumerable invertebrate fossils. Around 100 million years back, this region used to be a part of the Western Interior Seaway.
For those who don’t know: the Western Interior Seaway is the shallow sea that divides North America into two halves. Frederickson informed that 100 million years back, this seaway used to span from the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.
While walking along the formation, Janessa Doucette-Frederickson (now Janessa Doucette) tumbled over a rock and noticed a big vertebra peeping out of the ground. Janessa Doucette-Frederickson is a doctoral student of anthropology at the University of Oklahoma. During the 2009 excavation, she was Joseph Frederickson’s girlfriend and now she is married to Frederickson.
She along with other members of the team dug the region to discover three colossal vertebrae, each of which had a diameter of around 114 centimeters or 4.5 inches. The researchers could grip the vertebrae, but only if they had nothing in their hand.
One of the most prominent features of the vertebrae was stacks of lines known as lamellae along their exterior. This feature indicated that the vertebrae were of animals belonging to a broad classification of sharks known as lamniformes. Further study and analysis of previous researches allowed the team to conclude that those sharks used to exist 100 million years back.