Wednesday, 24 April, 2019

Before megalodon shark came Galagadon -- a shark with ‘spaceship-shaped’ teeth

An illustration showing what Galagadon would have looked like in life swimming along the river floor Fossil shark named after 80s video game
Cary Marshall | 25 January, 2019, 19:44

Makovicky likened it to modern-day bamboo sharks, noting it "probably had a flat face and was very likely camouflage-colored, since its relatives today have a camouflage pattern".

Once again the ancient world amazes palaeontologists, this time with the discovery of a shark with teeth similar to a video game icon.

Its teeth are also the reason the shark carries its retro-inspired scientific name.

Galaga is a Japanese arcade game initially released in 1981 which puts the player in control of a spacecraft. This shark was about 30-45 cm long, and its distinctive teeth measure less than a millimeter across.

"It may seem odd today, but about 67 million years ago, what is now South Dakota was covered in forests, swamps and winding rivers", said Terry Gates, Terry Gates, lecturer at North Carolina State University and research affiliate with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

Its teeth were found embedded in a rock removed from a T. rex skeleton in South Dakota almost 30 years ago.

The extinct shark would have traversed the rivers and wetlands of South Dakota, USA some 67 million years ago.

"Galagadon was not swooping in to prey on T. rex, Triceratops, or any other dinosaurs that happened into its streams", Gates said in a statement.

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Tom Fletcher, a teaching fellow in palaeobiology at the U.K.'s University of Leicester, who was not involved in the study, said people often forget dinosaurs were just part of a much wider ecosystem that existed millions of years ago.

The tiny teeth - each measuring less than a millimetre across - were discovered in the sediment left behind when paleontologists at the Field Museum of Natural History uncovered the bones of "Sue", now the most complete T rex specimen ever described.

Named Galagadon nordquistae, the newly-discovered shark species once swam in the Cretaceous rivers of what is now South Dakota. That rock has now yielded fossils from other creatures that were Sue's neighbors including a shark species called Galagadon nordquistae. "To the naked eye, it just looks like a little bump, you have to have a microscope to get a good view of it".

The scientists say that Sue and Galagadon lived at the same time and the shark's presence among the sediment's fossils is making them rethink what they knew about the landscape.

Field Museum volunteer in Chicago, Karen Nordquist, uncovered the teeth and said they are proof of the value in finding smaller prehistoric animals that can shed light on the ecosystems of the past.

For more information on the shark, head over to the paper "New sharks and other chondrichthyans from the latest Maastrichtian (Late Cretaceous) of North America".

"We had always thought of the SUE locality as being by a lake formed from a partially dried-up river", Field Museum dinosaur curator Pete Makovicy said.

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