Scientists have discovered a new species of shark in Alabama, Palaeohypotodus bizzocoi, which has needle-like teeth and became one of the ocean’s top predators after the extinction of dinosaurs on land.
The species, called Palaeohypotodus bizzocoi, lived about 65 million years ago in the period following the mass extinction event that wiped out more than 75 percent of life on Earth, including dinosaurs.
The shark species, which has small needle-like teeth on the sides of its tusks, was the leading predator as the oceans recovered after the extinction event, researchers say.
“Shark discoveries like this one give us tremendous insight into how ocean life recovered after major extinction events, and also potentially allow us to predict how global events like climate change are affecting marine life today,” said Lynn Harrell, a paleontologist involved in the discovery.
The latest discovery was made 100 years ago by researchers who combed through more than a dozen fossil shark teeth in Wilcox County. The range of teeth included nine teeth from the upper jaw and eight from the lower part; some had one or two pairs of teeth or ridges.
Scientists compared the fossil teeth with those of various living sharks, such as Great Whites and Makos, and soon discovered that they belonged to a new, as yet unidentified species that lived during the Paleocene.
“This period is under-researched, which makes the discovery of this new shark species that much more important,” Dr. Harrell said.
The researchers also reconstructed the teeth of the ancient species and showed that the tooth arrangement was different from any living shark.
They named the species Palaeohypotodus bizzocoi in honor of the late archaeologist Bruce Bizzoco (1949-2022), who served as Dean at Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa.
Based on the latest findings and the more than 400 unique species of sharks and bony fish in the region, Alabama may have been one of the richest places in the world for marine diversity in prehistoric times, the researchers say.