Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky is now the location for a new discovery that marks a premiere in science. The fossilized remains of six newfound species of ancient sharks were discovered, and it’s no surprise if we consider the site itself. For the last 10 months, at least 40 different fossilized sharks species have been discovered in various caves within the above-mentioned park.
The six newfound species of sharks include both large predators and small bottom-feeders.
325 million years old
The diversity of sharks present in the passages that make up Mammoth Cave is astonishing for scientists, as the paleontologist John-Paul Hodnett admits. He also said:
We can hardly move more than a couple of feet as another tooth or spine is spotted in the cave ceiling or wall. We are seeing a range of different species of chondrichthyans [cartilaginous fish] that fill a variety of ecological niches, from large predators to tiny little sharks that lived amongst the crinoid [sea lily] forest on the seafloor that was their habitat.
Today is #NationalFossilDay ! We are excited to announce the discovery of one of the most diverse examples of Mississippian shark fauna found in North America right here at Mammoth Cave! Learn more at: https://t.co/umMwtvxj3G #FindYourPark #FindYourShark pic.twitter.com/m1HAzfR01G
— Mammoth Cave NP (@MammothCaveNP) October 14, 2020
As Wikipedia tells us, Chondrichthyes is a class that contains cartilaginous fishes: jawed vertebrates having paired nares, paired fins, scales, a heart with chambers in series, and skeletons made of cartilage instead of bone. The class is divided into two categories: Elasmobranchii (rays, skates, sharks, and sawfish) and Holocephali (chimaeras, also called ghost sharks sometimes).
The anatomy of Chondrichthyes is pretty peculiar as well: the skeleton is cartilaginous and the notochord is replaced by a vertebral column during development, except for Holocephali.
The National Park Service (NPS) revealed that the new species will be named in a forthcoming scientific publication. The fact that scientists are still discovering new species on Earth, ancient or not, tells us that we still have a lot more to learn about our planet.