A nursery of extinct giant sharks discovered

Last Updated: Wednesday, May 19, 2010 - 19:10

Washington: In what is believed to be a
nursery of megalodons, an extinct giant shark species that
lived between 17 and two million years ago, has been
discovered in the Isthmus of Panama.

According to the scientists, megalodons -- the largest
shark that ever lived -- had nurseries to raise young sharks
typically in shallow areas where they can find ample food and
protection from predators, mainly larger sharks, LiveScience
reported.

"It is amazing how we were able to reconstruct a
behavioural strategy used by ancient sharks based on fossils,"
said lead researcher Catalina Pimiento, a biologist at the
University of Florida and the Smithsonian Tropical Research
Institute.

"The findings reveal that sharks, even in their largest
forms, have used nursery areas for millions of years as an
adaptive strategy for their survival," Pimiento added.

These findings were based on the fossil teeth found in
the Isthmus of Panama -- a marine strait that once connected
the Pacific Ocean with the Caribbean Sea -- that was covered
with shallow, salty waters some 82 feet deep.

According to the report, scientists investigating two
10-million-year-old fossil sites in the area found troves of
megalodon teeth, roughly 400 in total.

Surprisingly, large megalodon teeth were uncommon in the
troves. Instead, most ranged between 0.6 and 2.8 inches in
length.

Based on the shapes of the little teeth, the researchers
suggested they are from juveniles, as opposed to being small
teeth from regular adults or coming from some dwarf species of
megalodon.

For instance, some teeth possessed tiny sideway-jutting
projections previously seen in young megalodons, while others
were small, thick and heart-shaped, possibly coming from
embryonic sharks.

All in all, the scientists found teeth from 21 juvenile
megalodons some 6 to 34 feet long, as well as from seven
adults, some of which were possibly mother sharks.

The researchers believe that the teeth could reach up to
6.6 inches long, while the megalodon could stretch more than
52 feet long. The foetuses alone could reach 13 feet in
length, they said.

The findings are published online in the journal PLoS
ONE.

PTI




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