Teeth of prehistoric mega-shark found at beach
RARE evidence of a 9m-long prehistoric* mega*-shark has been found at an Australian beach.
The predator* would have been almost twice the size of modern Great Whites.
Local teacher and citizen scientist Philip Mullaly uncovered a set of 7cm teeth from the massive Great Jagged Narrow-Toothed Shark, the first fossil* evidence of its kind found in Australia and one of only three in the world.
The shark roamed* Victoria's ancient sea 25 million years ago and ate small whales.
The teeth were discovered in a boulder* at Jan Juc beach in Victoria. The boulder also contained teeth of several Sixgill shark species, which Museums Victoria palaeontologists* believe is evidence the smaller sharks feasted on the giant after its death.
"I was walking along the beach looking for fossils, turned and saw this shining glint in a boulder and saw a quarter of the tooth exposed," Mr Mullaly said.
"I was immediately excited, it was just perfect and I knew it was an important find that needed to be shared with people."
Victoria's Surf Coast is a renowned hotspot for fossils and Museums Victoria senior palaeontologist Dr Erich Fitzgerald said the expedition* to extract the more than 40 teeth from the site, last December and January, had produced material of great interest to the world.
"They represent one of just three associated groupings of (these) teeth in the world, and the very first set to ever be discovered in Australia," Dr Fitzgerald said.
"By donating his discovery to Museums Victoria, Mr Mullaly has ensured that these unique fossils are available for scientific research and education both now and for generations to come. This is absolutely essential for documenting* and preserving* Australia's prehistoric history."
Museums Victoria palaeontologist Tim Ziegler said the other Sixgill fossils from several ancient individuals would have come loose from the smaller sharks' jaws as they fed on the body of the mega-shark after it died.
"Sixgill sharks still live off the Victorian coast today, where they live off the remains of whales and other animals. This find suggests they have performed that lifestyle here for tens of millions of years."
The Mega Shark Fossil Find display, featuring 45 fossil shark teeth and a state-of-the-art life-size 8m-long digital animation, goes on display at Melbourne Museum from today as part of National Science Week.
prehistoric: the period before written records
predator: an animal that naturally preys on others
fossil: the remains or impression of a prehistoric plant or animal embedded in rock and preserved in petrified form
roamed: move about aimlessly, especially over a wide area
boulder: a large rock
palaeontologists: scientists who study fossil animals and plants
expedition: a journey
documenting: record (something) in written, photographic, or other form
preserving: maintain (something) in its original or existing state