The Melbourne Museum in Australia unveiled a rare fossilized find Thursday: a "jaw-full" of very big shark teeth.
The teeth, which are nearly three inches in length, belong to the Great Jagged Narrow-Toothed Shark, an extinct mega-shark species that stalked the Australian seas some 25 million years ago and subsisted on a diet of whales, the public museum organization said.
The fossil was discovered by Philip Mullaly, who is passionate about paleontology, while he was searching for fossils not far from the famous great Ocean Road. The beast could grow to be as long as 30 feet, twice the size of a great white shark.
"These teeth are of global significance, as they represent one of just three associated groupings of Carcharocles angustidens teeth in the world, and the very first set to ever be discovered in Australia", said Dr. Erich Fitzgerald, senior curator of vertebrate paleontology at Museums Victoria.
So he led a team of palaeontologists, volunteers, and Mullaly on two expeditions earlier this year to excavate the site, collecting more than 40 teeth in total. The teeth discovered on the beach were around 7 cm (2.75 inches) in length. After prying the almost 3-inch tooth loose from a boulder, he came back and found more teeth.
Erich Fitzgerald of Museums Victoria confirmed the species for Mullaly and explained just how special of a find they are.
Secondly, these rare fossils are among a handful of ancient shark teeth to have been found as a set. At the same time, ancient teeth are seldom preserved, because the cartilage in their make-up doesn't fossilize easily.
Researchers believe those teeth were left behind as a result of getting lodged in the carcass of the Great Jagged Narrow-Toothed Shark as smaller sharks fed on it after the much larger animal died. However, Fitzgerald said that finding multiple teeth from a single shark is extremely rare. These belong not only to Carcharocles angustidens, but also to much smaller species, the sixgill shark (Hexanchus), the scavenger that has survived until today. This means that the sixgill shark's behavior has not changed much for tens of millions of years.
Fitzgerald suspected they came from one individual shark and there might be more entombed in the rock.