Washington: US palaeontologists claim
to have discovered an extinct giant shark nursery in Panama.
A team from the Smithsonian`s and the University
of Florida collected more than 400 fossil shark teeth from
Panama`s 10-million-year-old Gatun Formation as part of its
research to reveal the origins of this narrow landbridge that
rose to connect North and South America 3 million years ago.
"The 28 teeth that we identified as C. megalodon were
mostly from neonates and juveniles," Catalina Pimiento, who
led the team, said.
The palaeontologists used reference collections at
the Smithsonian`s National Museum of Natural History and the
Florida Museum of Natural History to characterise the teeth.
"Very little is known about the life cycle of this
giant shark that ruled the oceans not so long ago. Now we
think that the young spent their first years close to the
coast among mangroves," said team member Carlos Jaramillo.
The team discarded several other explanations
for the concentration of small teeth at the site. Before their
discovery in Panama, two other fossil beds have been proposed
as paleo-shark nurseries: the Williamsburg Formation from the
Paleocene and the Oligocene Chandler Bridge Formation, both in
the US state of South Carolina.
The sandy soils of the Gatun Formation have been
used for years to make cement. Soon these outcrops will be
exhausted. Scientists continue to race against the clock to
find out more about the ancient inhabitants of the region.
The findings have been published in the `PLoS ONE`