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Leaping prehistoric sharks caught pterosaurs

Posted on Thursday, 20 December, 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)

Tags: Shark, Pterosaur

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Myles on 20 December, 2018, 13:04  
Comment icon #2 Posted by Vox on 20 December, 2018, 13:43
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 on 21 December, 2018, 0:01
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 on 25 December, 2018, 18:57
Mark Witton, one of the coauthors of the paper, has posted his response to the exaggerated headlines.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Captain Risky on 26 December, 2018, 2:19

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