A large, ancient shark hidden in a museum collection room encased in plaster likely represents a new species, experts have said.
The shark, nicknamed “Dave” after the owner of the farm where the specimen was discovered nearly 50 years ago, is now on display at the Canadian Fossil Discovery Center (CFDC) in Morden, Manitoba.
Dave was first discovered in 1975 during mining operations in the Morden area. After being discovered, the specimen was transported to the SADC, where it was stored for more than 40 years, wrapped in a protective plaster sheath.
“Nobody thought there was anything special in there,” Adolfo Cuetara, executive director of the museum, which houses the largest collection of marine reptile fossils in Canada, told CBC.
According to Cuetara, many specimens in the museum’s collection have not been properly examined due to a lack of resources, as is often the case at other institutions.
About eight years ago, museum researchers decided to examine the specimen, open the protective plaster jacket and find it was a particularly intriguing shark.
“It’s a very special shark for many reasons,” Cuetara said. “It is quite possible that we are talking about a new species.”
Among the reasons is the size of the shark. According to Cuetara, Dave is one of the largest fossilized shark specimens in the world, measuring around 15 feet long.
Additionally, Cuetara said it’s “highly possible” that Dave represents an entirely new species that scientists have never documented before.
“The shape of the jaws and the skull and the kind of structures it has, because the preservation is really amazing, tells us that it will probably be a new species,” the museum director told CTV News. Winnipeg.
Confirmation that Dave indeed represents a new species has yet to come, although research is ongoing to determine whether or not this is the case.
“It will probably be a new species, but we have to wait for the scientific paper,” Cuetara told CBC.
Besides its size and its potential to be a new species, the specimen is also notable for being among the best-preserved near-complete fossil shark skeletons in the world, according to Cuetara. It’s rare to find complete ancient shark skeletons because they’re mostly made of cartilage, which doesn’t keep well.
“He’s very soft, so he disappears normally,” Cuetara told CTV. “The part we normally find in the shark are the teeth, because they are the only hard part of the skeleton. But, in this case, we have an almost complete shark skeleton without teeth.”
Analysis of the skeleton and its lack of teeth indicated that Dave was some sort of basking or filter-feeding shark, possibly similar to modern whale sharks. Filter feeders filter small animals from the water using their mouths for food rather than hunting large prey.
After being rediscovered in a warehouse, Dave has now been put on display in the museum for the public to enjoy while researchers await the results of the next scientific paper.