Friday, July 12, 2024
Contact    |    RSS icon Twitter icon Facebook icon  
Unexplained Mysteries
You are viewing: Home > News > Palaeontology > News story
Welcome Guest ( Login or Register )  
All ▾
Search Submit


Leaping prehistoric sharks caught pterosaurs

By T.K. Randall
December 20, 2018 · Comment icon 5 comments

Low-flying pterosaurs were vulnerable to attack from sharks. Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 Elias Levy
New fossil evidence suggests that prehistoric sharks may have leapt from the water to catch flying reptiles.
The discovery was made by researchers from the University of Southern California who had been examining a fossil Pteranodon that had been kept in storage for over 50 years.

They were particularly surprised to find that this huge flying carnivore, which has earned the nickname 'King of the Skies', seemed to have a large tooth embedded between the ridges of its neck vertebrae.

A further examination revealed that the tooth was that of Cretoxyrhina mantelli - a particularly large and vicious species of prehistoric shark around the same size as today's great white shark.

The find is the first known evidence of a shark interacting with a pterosaur and suggests that these prehistoric denizens of the deep preyed upon more than just sea creatures.
While it is unclear exactly how the tooth came to be embedded in the pterosaur fossil, scientists have speculated that the shark may have leapt up out of the water to grab the reptile.

The idea is certainly not outside the realms of possibility, especially given that some of today's sharks are known to leap out of the water to catch birds.

"Understanding the ecology of these animals is important to understanding life on Earth through time," said study senior author Michael Habib.

"Are there sharks today that hunt seabirds? Yes, there are. Is that unique or have big sharks been hunting flying creatures for millions of years? The answer is yes, they have."

"We now know sharks were hunting flying animals as long ago as 80 million years."

Source: | Comments (5)

Other news and articles
Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Myles 6 years ago  
Comment icon #2 Posted by Vox 6 years ago
Isn't it more likely that the shark engaged in scavenging activities rather than leap out of the water to catch flying creatures? Case in point: Scenario: Pteranadon falls dead in the water because of (whatever). Prehistoric shark moseys on down and bites into Pteranadon carcass but is spooked or otherwise moves away from carcass but dislodges tooth where carcass settles in the sandy/clay bottom where it's fossilised over millions of years. I understand that modern sharks engage in these behaviours, but they also scavenge.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Carnoferox 6 years ago
It cannot be determined whether the Pteranodon was actively killed or scavenged by the Cretoxyrhina. The ecological relationship is discussed more in the paper.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Carnoferox 6 years ago
Mark Witton, one of the coauthors of the paper, has posted his response to the exaggerated headlines.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Captain Risky 6 years ago

Please Login or Register to post a comment.

Our new book is out now!
Book cover

The Unexplained Mysteries
Book of Weird News


Take a walk on the weird side with this compilation of some of the weirdest stories ever to grace the pages of a newspaper.

Click here to learn more

We need your help!
Patreon logo

Support us on Patreon


For less than the cost of a cup of coffee, you can gain access to a wide range of exclusive perks including our popular 'Lost Ghost Stories' series.

Click here to learn more

Top 10 trending mysteries
Recent news and articles