The fossil of an armored shark found on the World Heritage Site of the Jurassic Coast of Dorset, England is of a “news species,” scientists believe.
Information about the classification of the fossil, which dates back about 150 million years, was published last week in PeerJ, naming Sebastian Stumpf from the University of Vienna as the lead researcher on the study.
The extremely rare fossil, classified under the extinct species group “hybodontiform”—the closest prehistoric relative to modern-day sharks—was preserved in a slab of rock, which was collected from near Freshwater Steps, Encombe, Dorset almost 20 years ago. The specimen, containing “well-preserved but largely unstudied hybodontiform skeletal material” is housed in the Museum of Jurassic Marine Life (MJML) of Kimmeridge in their prestigious Etches Collection.
Researchers have identified the remains as belonging to a newly identified species called Durnonovariaodus maiseyi. The skeleton measures about 1,785 millimeters in length and 700 millimeters in width.
Other remains found include teeth, a single fragmentary dorsal fin spine, the pelvic girdle, as well as cartilage fragments of and dermal denticles scattered all across the slab of stone.
Speaking on the discovery, Stumpf, along with co-authors Steve Etches, Charlie J. Underwood and Jürgen Kriwet, wrote:
“The Etches Collection, which is now housed and curated in the Museum of Jurassic Marine Life of Kimmeridge, England, contains well-preserved but largely unstudied hybodontiform skeletal material from the Upper Jurassic Kimmeridge Clay Formation of southern England, including a partial skeleton of a comparably large-bodied hybodontiform, which is here described and designated as a new genus and species, Durnonovariaodus maiseyi gen. et sp. nov., and which significantly adds to our limited understanding of the diversity, ecology and distribution of Late Jurassic hybodontiforms.”
The journal further said that this shark, the only known specimen of Durnonovariaodus maiseyi, “could not be assigned to a particular gender given its incomplete preservation.”
Stumpf, as per The Telegraph, said, “It represents an important source of information for better understanding the diversity of sharks in the past.”
“It also provides new interpretations for the evolution of hybodontiform sharks whose relationships are still poorly understood – even after more than 150 years of research,” Stumpf added.
Fossil hunting in Dorset is not uncommon, as it is even listed as a leisure activity on their tourism website. A large number of fossils have been recovered from the aptly named Jurassic Coast of Dorset.
In a case of living history, a “fossil fish” dating back 420 million was discovered alive in Madagascar last week after years of being considered “extinct,”