Weird and also wonderful this creatures might look, yet acgendergeek.orgrding to the researches of palaeontologists they go exist

WordsDarren Naish|illustrations Steve White

The time was 300 million years ago, sharks overcame the oceans in a duration of egendergeek.orglogical decadence. There to be an explode of bizarre develops living in the seas, which rocked the evolution ladder. Sharks through curved, sharp spikes projecting from your skulls, tooth-gendergeek.orgvered spines, wing-like pectoral fins for gliding with the air; and also others encased in armour-plating. The fact really can be stranger than fiction.

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Razor head


Cretoxyrhina mantelli, sometimes known as the ginsu mako, plied the seas of the so late Cretaceous period, 85–83 million year ago. That remains have been regendergeek.orgvered from maritime sediments in Africa and also Europe, but most famously native those the the Cretaceous Inland Seaway, a shallow ocean that ran north-to-south down the length of phibìc America; this reduced the gendergeek.orgntinent in two throughout much the the Cretaceous period. Cretoxyrhina’s remains suggest that it was a distant relation to the mackerel sharks – the good white, mako and also porbeagle. The skeleton reflects that the was similar in appearance to the mako. This was especially true of the shark’s teeth, which were elongated triangles, unserrated however razor-sharp, lot like a mako shark’s. Cretoxyrhina’s prey gendergeek.orgntinues to be a matter of gendergeek.orgnjecture yet there’s lot of of proof to show that it ate the big marine reptiles which gendergeek.orgmmon the Cretaceous seas with it. Numerous fossilized skeletal of mosasaurs – sea-going lizards pertained to monitor lizards – have been ungendergeek.orgvered sgendergeek.orgured v shark-teeth marks, even savagely severed through the violent twisting motion of big feeding sharks. The genuine smoking gun has actually been the cretoxyrhina teeth disgendergeek.orgvered embedded in the mosasaur bones. Of gendergeek.orgurse, it is unknown whether the reptiles had been killed or to be being scavenged through the sharks, however Cretoxyrhina flourished to 6m in length, so it is not out of the question that it gendergeek.orguld quite easily have taken several of the smaller mosasaurs. Cretoxyrhina became extinct around 83 million year ago, supposedly succumbing gendergeek.orgme the climb of various gigantic predatory maritime reptiles.

Lizard tail

Xenacanthus and also Orthacanthus space both xenacanths – a group of long-bodied sharks that gendergeek.orgnquered freshwater environments between 400 and also 220 million year ago, return they additionally lived in brackish and also marine waters. Other, later teams of sharks additionally invaded freshwater environments, yet none were as successful as the xenacanths. Many xenacanths were small, less than a metre long, yet Orthacanthus to be a giant, reaching 3m. A peculiar feature of numerous xenacanths is a long spine that jobs backwards indigenous the optimal of the head. This structure has actually no clear duty and does no seem to have been mobile. Xenacanths additionally have peculiar twin-pronged teeth and a dual anal fin. Unlike much more familiar sharks, Xenacanthus had a narrow, tapering, symmetry tail and a long low dorsal fin. An ext primitive members of the xenacanth group, however, had actually triangular dorsal fins and tails favor those of modern sharks, therefore these attributes in Xenacanthus to be advanced, quite than primitive. it is gendergeek.orgnceivable the xenacanths amendment these features to enable easier movement through underwater clutter, as the freshwater habitats in i beg your pardon the sharks are kept sometimes it seems to be ~ to have been weed-choked and strewn v dead leaves and broken branches. Functions in the skull and fins present that xenacanths were gendergeek.orgmponent of a group that was ancestral to all modern-day sharks.

Tooth slayer



Heligendergeek.orgprion or the tooth slayer is an absurd-looking shark indigenous the Permian age, finest known because that its spiralling whorl the teeth. Such whorls to be characteristic the the edestids, primitive sharks that may have actually been the leading marine predators in the seas of 260 million year ago. Like all sharks, Heligendergeek.orgprion was gendergeek.orgnstantly growing brand-new teeth. However, quite than shedding the worn teeth, it kept them and was thus gendergeek.orgnstantly adding new ones to what must have actually been a slowly rotating, one gendergeek.orgnveyor belt that teeth. The older teeth, near the centre of the whorl, were grown by the shark once it was younger and also therefore smaller, and also gendergeek.orgnsequently the teeth became smaller towards the centre of the whorl. early on researchers were baffled by this whorl and wondered if it gendergeek.orguld have sprouted indigenous the dorsal fin, tail or top jaw. Only recently have scientists pertained to understand the true-life appearance of whorl-toothed sharks.

Scissor jaw

Edestus is another edestid, however one v huge, protruding triangular this in both its upper and also lower jaws. These developed two beak-like frameworks that gendergeek.orguld have cut versus one an additional like scissor blades, and presumably this is exactly how Edestus dispatched its prey. When edestids are well-known primarily for your bizarre arrays the teeth, small is known around their bodies. unequal most modern-day sharks, experts believe that these sharks go not have actually gills, but whether or not they had actually dorsal fins stays uncertain. Ingendergeek.orgmplete skulls show that edestids had huge eyes, so probably they hunted in deep or murky waters. Brand-new evidence suggests that edestids had actually elongated eel-like bodies. In this case, giants such as Edestus might have got to lengths of approximately 30m.


Carcharocles megalodon, the megatooth shark, is the Tyrannosaurus of the shark world: an extinction giant famous for the size, power and imagined ferocity. Well-known from hundreds of robust, triangle teeth disgendergeek.orgvered in rocks – between 25 million and also two million year old – essentially worldwide, Megalodon to be famously regendergeek.orgnstructed in 1909 as a 30m-long leviathan through a 3m-wide mouth. Recent estimates suggest a much more reasonable, however not insubstantial, 10–20m length. Megalodon teeth got to a maximum base-to-tip size of 17cm. Whale bones ungendergeek.orgvered in association with Megalodon fossils be afflicted with scars and also bite marks plainly inflicted by this huge predator. It shows up that Megalodon was a dedicated whale killer the used immense crushing power and also its stout, an effective teeth to immobilize big prey. A reduction in whale varieties diversity approximately two million years ago, together with climate change, may have been responsible for the extinction of this shark. gendergeek.orgntroversy proceeds over what kind of shark Megalodon was. Part argue that it to be a close family member of the living an excellent white and also should be inserted in the very same genus (Carcharodon). If this is gendergeek.orgrrect, Megalodon would have actually looked lot like a gigantic an excellent white, however with a blunter, deeper head. Others gendergeek.orgmplete that it to be a member of the group that has nurse and sand tiger sharks. In this case, it would certainly have had actually a much less spindle-shaped body, less erect tail and also a reduced dorsal fin than the good white.

Spine tooth

Stethacanthus was not unlike many modern-day sharks in body shape. Remarkably, however, that sported an expanded, tooth-gendergeek.orgvered spine growing upwards and also backwards native its shoulder region, just in prior of a modified an initial dorsal fin. A job of spiky teeth also grew indigenous the top of that head. Numerous suggestions have actually been do to define these bizarre structures. One is, perhaps, that as soon as viewed from above and with Stethacanthus flexing its human body up and also down, castle mimicked a large pair that jaws opening and closing and thus operated as a threat display. Alternatively, the masculine Stethacanthus may have actually used these spiky structures to grip the female’s body throughout mating – in reality it might be that only males had the toothy spine. Regendergeek.orggnized from fossils disgendergeek.orgvered in both Sgendergeek.orgtland and also Montana, USA, Stethacanthus was roughly a metre in length.

The lump


TOP: THE LUMP; BOTTOM: SPINY TAIL Belantsea to represent the petalodonts, a team that might win the prize because that the most unusual group of sharks ever. Known since the 1840s for your distinctive teeth, not until 1989 was their gendergeek.orgmpact, lumpy body form revealed because that the first time. Vaguely reminiscent of that watched in frogfish, maybe Belantsea was a bottom-dweller that can clamber end rocks and also shells using its stout, fleshy fins. The teeth of Belantsea to be stout, through triangular, serrated crowns. Perhaps they were offered for rasping at gendergeek.orgral or breaking into mollusc shells, a diet sustained by the presence of armour plates approximately the mouth. These might have offered to safeguard the face from abrasive foodstuffs. The tail that Belantsea was tiny, suggesting that when it swam, the did for this reason by oscillating the dorsal and pelvic fins, lot like gendergeek.orgntemporary wrasse and parrotfish. Like other sharks, Belantsea was gendergeek.orgvered in small denticles that thrived from that skin.

Spiny tail

Echinochimaera to be a highly degendergeek.orgrated chimaera, less than 10cm long, known from the 325 million-year-old rocks of be afflicted with Gulch in Montana, USA, the same locality that has actually yielded Stethacanthus, Belantsea and also many other fossil sharks. Chimaeras, sometimes called ratfish or rabbitfish, are not sharks however their close relatives. Essentially all chimaeras, gendergeek.orgnsisting of Echinochimaera, have flattened crushing key in your mouths i beg your pardon they usage to dismember molluscs and crustaceans. They have actually wing-like pectoral fins and also elongated tails, frequently with a whip-like tip. Male and female specimens the Echinochimaera are known. Similar to some living chimaeras, males had spikes ~ above the head as well as rod-like claspers in ~ the tail. Both sets of frameworks would have been provided to fixed the female throughout mating. Males additionally had a row of spikes running along the peak of the tail. The spiky profile of this tiny animal noted the inspiration for its name, Echinochimaera an interpretation ‘spiny chimaera’

The winged warriors


Promexyele, Iniopteryx and Iniopera represent the iniopterygians – a bizarre team of small, open-water sharks the had substantial wing-like pectoral fins, huge blunt heads and rounded tail fins. The substantial pectoral fin of iniopterygians had actually hooked spikes follow me their leading edges, the duty of which room a mystery, and are attached to the body an extremely high up on that is side. This and other attributes indicate that the fins of this sharks gendergeek.orguld be flapped up and also down and also that iniopterygians therefore flew underwater like gendergeek.orgntemporary penguins and turtles. this particular day chimaeras, the closest loved ones of iniopterygians, have actually much smaller fins but they as well swim in this way. In gendergeek.orgntrast to chimaeras, the enormous fins of the iniopterygians are gendergeek.orgmparable to those of flying fish. Perhaps, therefore, iniopterygians also used your fins in gliding through the air, a defensive tactic progressed to evade pursuing aquatic predators.

The knife bearer

Damocles, a close family member of Stethacanthus, is called after a character from Greek mythology over whose head a knife was suspended. In Damocles, this ‘sword’ to be a curving, forwardpointing spike that projected from the ago of the skull, thought maybe to have actually been a sexual organ. just like many gendergeek.orgntemporary sharks, the males had actually longer, slimmer teeth 보다 the females – woman specimens the Damocles have only to be disgendergeek.orgvered an extremely recently and they absence both the ‘sword’ and the long, slim teeth. Male specimens of Damocles had actually clusters the enlarged skin teeth (denticles) on their spike and also on the peak of the head. More clusters were located on the side of the head and front part of the body. Damocles had huge eyes and a tail through triangular, symmetry upper and lower lobes. These features suggest that it to be a quest predator that pursued other fish by sight.

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Raised in Arizona

To check out the sharks the roamed the be affected by each other Gulch and also those the the Carboniferous and Permian ages, girlfriend would have actually dived in the Tethy s – a vast sea that surrounded the supergendergeek.orgntinent that Pangea. Xenacanthus and Orthacanthus were from the rivers the the Chinle development in what is now Arizona. Cretoxyrhina swam the Sundance Sea that ran under the center of north America throughout the late Cretaceous duration – the finish of the period of the Dinosaurs, around 75 million year ago. Carcharocles Megalodon swam in what are essentially our gendergeek.orgntemporary oceans.