Prehistoric shark discovered with bizarre ‘spaceship-shaped’ teeth

22 Jan 2019

Illustration of what the galadon shark might have looked like. Image: Velizar Simeonovski/Field Museum

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

Following the discovery of leftover slime from a descendant of the ugly hagfish, another research team has announced its own find of an entirely new – and strange – ancient species of marine life.

Publishing its findings in the Journal of Paleontology, a team from North Carolina State University released details on the extinct freshwater shark with teeth that look like the alien ships from the classic Japanese 1980s video game Galaga. The remains were discovered beside ‘Sue’, the world’s most famous and most complete T-rex fossil found to date.

Named Galadon nordquistae, the fish differed from its enormous cousin, the megalodon, by being much smaller with a length of between 30cm and 46cm. Its closest modern relatives include carpet sharks such as the whiskered wobbegong, with this ancient species having lived in the Cretaceous rivers of what is now South Dakota.

The region looked remarkably different to what it does today, having once been predominantly covered in forests, swamps and winding rivers, which the ancient fish would have hunted in.

Collection of 16 triangle shaped shark teeth found by the palaeontologists.

Collection of galadon teeth. Image: Terry Gates/NC State University

‘Without a microscope you’d just throw them away’

However, it is its strange, tiny teeth that have caught the most attention. Measuring less than 1mm across, the teeth were found in the sediment left behind when palaeontologists were trying to uncover the bones of Sue.

After sifting through two tonnes of dirt, lead author of the research, Terry Gates, and volunteer Karen Nordquist found two dozen teeth belonging to the new species.

“The more we discover about the Cretaceous period just before the non-bird dinosaurs went extinct, the more fantastic that world becomes,” Gates said.

“It amazes me that we can find microscopic shark teeth sitting right beside the bones of the largest predators of all time. These teeth are the size of a sand grain. Without a microscope you’d just throw them away.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic