Teeth In Fossil Poop Suggest Ancient Cannibal Sharks

Posted: Aug 12 2016, 4:46am CDT | by , Updated: Aug 12 2016, 5:22am CDT, in News | Latest Science News


Teeth in Fossil Poop Suggest Cannibal Ancient Sharks
Sketch of Orthacanthus, the tri-cuspid tooth of Orthacanthus and a thin section of an Orthacanthus coprolite showing teeth within the black box. Credit: University of Bristol
  • Fecal Samples of an Ancient Shark reveal it to have been an Eater of its Own Species

The fecal samples of an ancient shark reveal it to actually have been an eater of its own young species.

Researchers have found fossilized proof of a 300 million year old shark having been an eater of its own young. The petrified fecal matter of mature Orthacanthus sharks contained the small teeth of young sharks of their own kind.

They often employed sealed lagoons of coastal waters in order to bring up their young ones. However, it was found much to the surprise of the scientists, that these sharks also ate their young when other sources of food ran out. 

300 million years ago, both Europe and North America lay near the equator. These land masses were rife with thick patches of vegetation. Today all this can be found in the form of coal.

The head honcho predators of these jungles were not land animals but huge sharks. This fossilized fecal material of these sharks clearly shows the presence of the teeth of their young. This sort of behavior is called filial cannibalism.

These findings have been published in a journal Palaeontology.

Orthacanthus was a three meter long shark with a dorsal fin, a body like an eel and tricusped teeth. While it was known that these sharks preyed on fish and amphibians, this is the first time that evidence has come to the fore that they were a cannibal species.

Paleontologists cannot see direct proof of predator-prey relations. So they have to rely on indirect evidence. The shark poop came in handy in the diagnosis of cannibalism among these fierce species.

Why exactly this species of shark ate its young remains a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Those ancient times were such that marine fish were beginning to inhabit the swamps in sizeable populations.

These sharks were probably more like the modern day bull sharks. They migrated between the protected lagoon and the outer waterways.

When they ran out of other marine animals to eat, their attention turned on their own juvenile members which became a macabre source of nutrition for these cannibal sharks.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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