Plesiosaur a victim of shark attack

October 6, 2009 by Lin Edwards weblog

( -- 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,

© 2009

Explore further: Preserved shark fossil adds evidence to great white's origins

Related Stories

Taking the bite out of shark DNA

August 18, 2008

( -- 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 specimens.

Fossils from ancient sea monster found in Montana

November 6, 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 represent the ...

Scientists Discover Ancient Marine Reptiles

July 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.

September 6, 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

June 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 fossil that ...

Recommended for you

Plague likely a Stone Age arrival to central Europe

November 22, 2017

A team of researchers led by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History has sequenced the first six European genomes of the plague-causing bacterium Yersinia pestis dating from the Late Neolithic ...

How to cut your lawn for grasshoppers

November 22, 2017

Picture a grasshopper landing randomly on a lawn of fixed area. If it then jumps a certain distance in a random direction, what shape should the lawn be to maximise the chance that the grasshopper stays on the lawn after ...

Ancient barley took high road to China

November 21, 2017

First domesticated 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East, wheat and barley took vastly different routes to China, with barley switching from a winter to both a winter and summer crop during a thousand-year ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.