New species of fossil shark millions of years old unearthed in Alabama

A shark fossil found in Alabama dating back 65 million years is a new species, the nonprofit McWane Science Center in Birmingham announced this week.

The fossils the center examined were unearthed over 100 years ago in the state’s Wilcox County. Then McWane Science Center Director of Collections Jun Ebersole uncovered them.

“A few years ago, I was looking through the historical fossil collections at the Geological Survey in Alabama and came across a small box of shark teeth. … Having documented hundreds of fossil fish species over the last decade, I found it puzzling that these teeth were from a shark that I didn’t recognize,” Mr. Ebersole said in a release from the center.



The fossils date back to just after the mass extinction of the dinosaurs, which included the reigning alpha predators of the ancient ocean.

This species, with the scientific name Palaeohypodotus bizzocoi, filled in the niche in the recovering ecosystem, South Carolina State Museum Curator of Natural History David Cicimurri said.

The first word or genus is Greek for ancient small-eared tooth, referring to thin, sharp fangs on the side of the shark’s teeth. The center said the species is the first of its genus to be discovered in the region.

The second word honors the late archaeologist Bruce Bizzoco, a longtime volunteer at the center.

The fossil shark’s teeth are different from those in living sharks, the center said; the fangs indicate the fish may have fed on prehistoric crustaceans, squids and bony fish. Officials at the center hypothesized the fossil shark is closest in appearance and length to the sand shark, which is 10 feet long.

Palaeohypodotus bizzocoi is the third new shark species announced in America this month. On Feb. 1, Mammoth Cave National Park confirmed the discovery of two much more ancient species, both dating back about 325 million years.

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