A potentially new species of ancient shark may have been discovered at the Canadian Fossil Discovery Center in Morden, Man. However, the fossil has been in the possession of the museum for almost 50 years.
The fossil was discovered in 1975 on a farm west of Morden.
Adolfo Cuetara, executive director of the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre, said bentonite mining was happening in the area and that’s when the fossil was found.
He said the fossil had been taken back to the museum and put into storage, noting that many fossils had been collected at that time, so it had been forgotten in the collection. That is, until a few years ago.
“Finally, we found out it was actually a shark,” Cuetara said.
There is no official name for the shark yet, but the center has currently named him “Dave” after the owner of the farm where he was discovered.
Cuetara said there were certain things that made Dave important. The first being that the center team believe it is a new species of ancient shark – confirmation they are currently awaiting.
“The shape of the jaws and the skull and the kind of structures it has, because the preservation is really amazing, tells us that it will probably be a new species. The problem now is that we need scientific articles, scientific research and this article is in progress.
The recently discovered shark fossil exhibit at the Canadian Fossil Discovery Center in Morden. (Source: Adolfo Cuetara/Canadian Center for Fossil Discovery)
The second is how well preserved it is, something he said is hard to find.
“The shark skeleton is made of cartilage, not bone. So it’s very difficult to keep that material, it’s very soft, so normally it just disappears. The part we normally find in the shark is the teeth, because they are the only hard part of the skeleton. But, in this case, we have an almost complete shark skeleton without teeth. The explanation is that it was a basking shark, a filter-feeding shark.
A similar comparison to Dave these days would be a whale shark, Cuetara said.
He said Dave is believed to be the largest fossilized shark in the world, measuring around 15ft.
Rendering of a shark fossil at the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre. (Source: Adolfo Cuetara/Canadian Center for Fossil Discovery)
In the Cretaceous, 85 million years ago, the grasslands were underwater and the sea was connected from Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. Cuetara said it was known as the Interior Seaway.
“It’s the only known basking or filter feeder shark in this Interior Seaway at the time…it gives broader insights into life at this time in the Interior Seaway.”
Dave is currently on display at the Canadian Fossil Discovery Center and the museum has included as much information as possible with the exhibit.