Front Page Detectives

Prehistoric Predator: Ancient 30-Foot Relative of Great White Shark Discovered in Mexican Quarry

Ancient 30-Foot Relative of the Great White Shark Discovered in Mexico
Source: Unsplash

The enigmatic sharks are believed to have eaten large ammonites and sea turtles.

Apr. 26 2024, Published 1:02 p.m. ET

Link to FacebookShare to XShare to Email

Fossilized remains of an enormous shark that coexisted with the dinosaurs have unveiled crucial insights about this mysterious predator, revealing it to be an ancient relative of the great white shark.

Sharks from the genus Ptychodus were initially discovered in the mid-eighteenth century. Most descriptions of this genus were primarily based on their teeth, which could reach nearly 22 inches in length and 18 inches in width, specially adapted for crushing shells.

Article continues below advertisement

These teeth were found in numerous marine deposits dating back to the Cretaceous period (from 145 million to 66 million years ago).

Until now, without the ability to examine a fully intact specimen, researchers had engaged in heated debates about the body shape of this shark.

"The discovery of complete Ptychodus specimens is really exciting because it solves one of the most striking enigmas in vertebrate paleontology," lead author Romain Vullo, a researcher at Géosciences Rennes, explained in an email to Live Science.

In a study published recently in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, researchers detailed complete fossils of the shark discovered in limestone quarries in Nuevo León, northeastern Mexico.

Article continues below advertisement

Its outline was remarkably well-preserved, and its body shape suggests it preyed on sea turtles — which might explain its extinction around 76 million years ago as it competed with other animals that also fed on the same prey.

“The specimens “show an exquisite preservation," because they were deposited in a quiet area with no scavengers, Vullo said. “The carcasses of animals were rapidly buried in soft lime mud before being entirely disarticulated."

Breaking News

Analysis of the fossils reveals that this large predator belonged to the mackerel shark group (Lamniformes), which includes great whites (Carcharodon carcharias), mako and salmon sharks.

It grew to around 33 feet long and is known for its massive, grinding teeth, unlike those seen in sharks today.

It was widely believed that Ptychodus fed on invertebrates from the seabed — the ancient relatives of clams and mussels. However, the new fossils challenge that belief, revealing that this ancient shark had a streamlined body shape, indicating it was a fast-swimming pelagic predator.

Article continues below advertisement

Never miss a story — sign up for the Front Page Detectives newsletter. Be on the scene the moment news breaks.

"The newly discovered fossils from Mexico indicate that Ptychodus looked like the living porbeagle shark," Vullo said, but with “unique grinding dentition."

This newfound information has led the researchers to believe it preyed on large ammonites — a type of crustacean with a hard shell — and sea turtles.

"Ptychodus occupied a special ecological niche in Late Cretaceous seas," Vullo said, because it was the only pelagic shark adapted to eating hard-shelled prey such as turtles. This may explain why it died out around 10 million years before the extinction event that ended the Cretaceous period.

“Toward the end of the Cretaceous, these large sharks were likely in direct competition with some marine reptiles (mosasaurs) targeting the same prey," he said.


Become a Front Page Detective

Sign up to receive breaking
Front Page Detectives
news and exclusive investigations.

More Stories

Opt-out of personalized ads

© Copyright 2024 FRONT PAGE DETECTIVES™️. A DIVISION OF MYSTIFY ENTERTAINMENT NETWORK INC. FRONT PAGE DETECTIVES is a registered trademark. All rights reserved. Registration on or use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms of Service, Privacy Policy and Cookies Policy. People may receive compensation for some links to products and services. Offers may be subject to change without notice.