Researchers Make Astonishing Discovery of New Species of Ancient Shark
Over the past few centuries, researchers have gone to great depths to uncover the treasures of the sea, discovering new species and collecting data that can be studied to understand the ocean’s history and the diversity of the creatures that have lived in it. But an exciting new discovery off the coast of New Zealand recently made headlines when a team of international researchers announced the uncovering of a new species of ancient shark, one that has been extinct for millions of years.
What Makes This New Species Unique?
The new species, named Symmorium jordani, is so unique that it has been classified as a completely new genus. Remaining fossilized teeth and mandible fragments that were uncovered by the group, who were based at KU Leuven in Belgium, indicate that this species was a benthic deep-sea shark that was unlike anything researchers have ever seen before. It comes from a part of the fossil record, stretching millions of years ago, that is known as the Eocene Epoch.
The Diverse Nature of the Eocene Epoch
The Eocene Epoch, defined as the period lasting from about 56 to as recently as 33.9 million years ago, was a geological time period that was not only home to Symmorium jordani but also other diverse groups of animals, some of which are still around today. Along with ancient sharks, the Eocene Epoch saw the emergence of mammals like chalicotheres and the first primates, sea life like the common four-horned antelope, and head-shield slugs like the Aplacophora.
The Study That Led to the Discovery
The research which led to the uncovering of Symmorium jordani was conducted by an international team of researchers and was published in the prestigious journal Palaeontology. This was a significant collaboration between the Universities of KU Leuven in Belgium and Auckland in New Zealand, and the International Institute for Natural History in South Africa.
The researchers used a unique combination of conventional methods such as systematic taxonomy, numerical methods such as morphometric analysis, and evolutionary-based methods like phylogenetic analysis in order to uncover the new species and distinguish it from others in its genus.
Location of the Fossils
The fossilized teeth and mandible fragments that the team uncovered were found in a well-known geological formation in southern New Zealand known as the “Waitotaran Lignite Formation.” This formation is a rich source of fossilized evidence from thousands of species, from fish to plants to tiny creatures like pore clams and brachiopods.
Analysis of the Fossils
The team was able to analyze the teeth and mandible fragments of Symmorium jordani to determine its origin. The features that stood out and set it apart from other species in its genus included a unique set of double-serrated, short cuspid teeth and a split mandible condition that has never been seen before in this type of shark.
Morphometric analysis, which involves taking measurements of 3D surface models to create a numerical representation, was also employed by the researchers to provide additional evidence of the new species. They found that the tooth shapes of Symmorian jordani were distinct, with a higher degree of serration on their cuspids compared to other sharks in the same genus, and a unique combination of curvature and length.
The Connection to Other Ancient Sharks
The research team was also able to determine that Symmorian jordani is closely related to other ancient species in its genus, such as the Greenland shark. They also suggested it could be related to other fossil sharks that have been discovered in the fossil record of the Eocene Epoch, such as the long-extinct Chauliodus pauciradiatus.
The Implications of the Discovery
The discovery of this new species of ancient shark is significant in many ways. Scientists now know more about the diversity of marine life in the Eocene Epoch, and the connection between this discovery and other ancient sharks could provide further insight about the evolution of the species.
The research team’s methods could also pave the way for discoveries of other new species in the future, as they used a combination of approaches that could be applied to investigate the remains of other ancient animals. The findings could also potentially provide insight into the habitat and environmental conditions of the region during the Eocene Epoch, offering a wider view of life at that time.
The uncovering of the new species of ancient shark, Symmorian jordani, is an exciting discovery that brings with it many potential implications. The research methods used have opened the door for future discoveries, and the findings can offer valuable insight into the diversity and evolution of marine life throughout geological time.