Plesiosaur a victim of shark attack

Oct 06, 2009 by Lin Edwards weblog

(PhysOrg.com) -- An 85 million-year-old plesiosaur fossil has been found with over 80 shark's teeth, suggesting the animal was the victim of sharks in a feeding frenzy. The find is perhaps the most spectacular example of a shark attack in the fossil record.

Plesiosaurs were long-necked marine reptiles from the . The fossil of the approximately 7 meter (23 ft) sea creature, now called Futabasaurus suzukii, was discovered by a high school student in Japan in 1968, but it could not be properly examined until recently because of a lack of comparative samples, and a shortage of resources.

Professor Kenshu Shimada, a from DePaul University in Chicago, said he remembered hearing of the with shark embedded in it when he was a child in Japan, but when he read the recently released description saying there were more than 80 teeth found either embedded in the bones or in the immediate vicinity, he wanted to take a closer look. He found that the teeth belonged to about seven sharks, which suggests it was a group event.

Shimada identified the sharks that attacked the hapless plesiosaur as juvenile and adult Cretalamna appendiculata, extinct ancestors of today's great white shark. The sharks possibly ranged in size from 1.5 to 4.25 meters (5-14 ft), which is much smaller than the plesiosaur, itself a major predator.

Professor Shimada said the sharks would have been no match for a healthy plesiosaur and its razor-sharp teeth, and the animal may have been dying or dead. Another paleontologist, Jorgen Kriwet, from the State Museum of Natural History in Stuttgart, Germany, agreed the plesiosaur was probably badly wounded. He said this kind of behavior is often seen today, with attacking injured animals much larger than themselves, regularly losing some of their teeth in the process.

The findings were presented in a paper at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology's annual meeting in Bristol, U.K., and will be published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

More information: Related article: Kenshu Shimada, Cynthia K. Rigsby, and Sun H. Kim, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 2009, 29(2):336-349, http://www.vertpaleo.org/publications/jvp/29-2/29-336-349.cfm

© 2009 PhysOrg.com

Explore further: Changing dinosaur tracks spurs novel approach

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Taking the bite out of shark DNA

Aug 18, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- Extracting shark DNA has been somewhat of a challenge in the past, with scientists having to overcome the obvious hurdles associated with carrying out biopsies on live and rather uncooperative ...

Fossils from ancient sea monster found in Montana

Nov 06, 2006

A fossil-hunting trip to celebrate a son's homecoming resulted in the recent discovery of an ancient sea monster in central Montana. Believed to be approximately 70 million years old, its skull and lower jaw ...

Scientists Discover Ancient Marine Reptiles

Jul 26, 2006

A team led by University of Adelaide palaeontologist Dr Benjamin Kear has identified two new species of ancient marine reptiles that swam the shallow waters of an inland sea in Australia 115 million years ago.

Great white sharks tagged for first time off Mass.

Sep 06, 2009

(AP) -- Massachusetts officials are using high-tech tags to track the movements of two great white sharks near Cape Cod - the first time the fearsome fish have ever been tagged in the Atlantic Ocean.

New fossil tells how piranhas got their teeth

Jun 25, 2009

How did piranhas -- the legendary freshwater fish with the razor bite -- get their telltale teeth? Researchers from Argentina, the United States and Venezuela have uncovered the jawbone of a striking transitional ...

Recommended for you

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

19 hours ago

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

19 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...