Ancient shark skeleton, hidden in Manitoba museum’s collection for 40 years, may be first of its kind

The skeleton of an ancient shark that may be the first of its kind is now on display at the Canadian Fossil Discovery Center in Morden, Manitoba. – and it was only recently “rediscovered” after being part of the museum’s collection for decades.

“It’s a very special shark for many reasons,” Adolfo Cuetara, executive director of the fossil center, told CBC News in an interview. “It is quite possible that we are talking about a new species.”

For this reason, the shark has not yet been given a scientific name, Cuetara said. It was unofficially named “Dave”, after the owner of the farm just west of Morden where it was found almost 50 years ago.

The center found Dave in its collection room eight years ago, although the shark fossil has been there for much longer.

“It was discovered in 1975, but it was simply hidden in the collection room for over 40 years,” Cuetara said.

Dave has been on display at the Canadian Fossil Discovery Center since March. The fossil was discovered in 1975, but was hidden in the center’s collection until a few years ago. (Canadian Center for Fossil Discovery)

It was wrapped in a plaster jacket in a safe in the museum’s collection room, and “nobody thought there was anything special in there,” Cuetara said.

He explained that museums sometimes don’t have the ability to comb through every piece in their collections – but a few years ago museum workers decided to open the plaster jacket to see what he had. was inside and were surprised to find it was a shark. .

After rediscovering the fossil, Dave was finally put on display at the museum.

Dave is nearly four and a half meters (15 feet) long and is one of the largest and best-preserved shark skeletons in the world, Cuetara said.

Complete shark skeletons are hard to find because they are made of soft cartilage, which does not store well, he said.

Dave is a toothless filter-feeder shark that got its nutrients by taking them out of the water, Cuetara said.

After finding the fossil, the center has spent the past few years preparing an exhibit for Dave, which launched earlier this year.

Radio Midi Manitoba7:04A unique fossil shark skeleton is being unveiled in Morden this week.

Fossilized shark skeletons are extremely rare, but the one found in Manitoba is on display at the Canadian Fossil Discovery Center in Morden. Host Marjorie Dowhos spoke to Executive Director Adolfo Cuetara about this unique discovery.

Cuetara now hopes that an upcoming scientific paper will clear up the mystery surrounding the shark species.

“There is research going on right now,” he said. “It will probably be a new species, but we have to wait for the scientific paper.”

More Changes at Morden Museum

The Morden Fossil Discovery Center – a town of 10,000 people in southern Manitoba – is no stranger to big attractions.

It has long been the home of “Bruce”, believed to be world’s largest mosasaur on public display — a type of marine reptile that was dominant at the end of the age of the dinosaurs, around 80 to 66 million years ago.

The museum also claims that it has the largest collection of marine reptile fossils in Canada.

Bruce the mosasaur was found at Thornhill, just west of Morden, in a farmer’s field in 1974. He is now on display at the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

After more than two years of pandemic disruption, the fossil center is once again welcoming visitors, with about 500 students so far this season, Cuetara said.

The return of visitors coincides with some new expansions to the museum, which currently sits in the basement of the city’s Access Event Centre.

The fossil museum is now in the preliminary stages of building a new stand-alone facility, Cuetara said. The new 40,000 square foot facility will focus on a more interactive experience for visitors using technology, projections and motion sensors, a departure from what many consider the standard model for a museum.

“Perhaps people don’t learn in that classic way anymore,” Cuetara said. “Or maybe there are just more ways to learn.”

The center is also constructing a 45-hectare (110-acre) field station in the Manitoba Escarpment around the Morden area, where the center conducts its excavation work during the field season from May through October.

The new field station will offer day camps for children ages 5 to 12, Cuetara said. Construction of the research station will wrap up at the end of this summer in preparation for the center’s popular excavation tours in 2023.

The center has also developed an interactive collections management system that will allow the public to virtually explore 20,000 fossils from over 1,500 different species.

“We upload thousands of photos, thousands of documents,” Cuetara said. “You can virtually browse the collection room.”

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