Mammoth Cave National Park is more than just a collection of impressive stalactites and underground tunnels. It turns out to be a window into prehistoric marine life. The ancient waters that formed the cave exposed fossils embedded in ancient rock. During paleontological survey work that began in 2019, researchers discovered an incredible collection of prehistoric shark fauna protruding from the cave walls.
The collection of ancient marine life includes several species of sharks previously unknown to researchers, such as his 337-million-year-old Strigilodus tollsonae. A statement from the National Park Service (NPS) said: "Several caves in the park are known to contain Ice Age mammal fossils in unconsolidated sediments, and the caves are also known to contain fossils of Ice Age mammals. It is known that fossils of ancient marine life were preserved in the limestone. ”
The cave traverses limestone deposits that were formed 325 million years ago during the late Paleozoic era, more specifically during the Mississippi River period. This period lasted from about 358.9 million years ago to 323.2 million years ago, and left us with countless fossils. According to the NPS, "shallow oceans covered much of North America during the Mississippi River era," so the fossils in the cave are of aquatic life.
More than 40 ancient sharks and related species were discovered in the cave last school year. JP Hodnett, a paleontologist and shark fossil expert, was brought in to help with the research. "I'm truly amazed at the diversity of sharks we see as we explore the passageways of Mammoth Cave," he said in a statement, adding that "we are truly amazed at the diversity of sharks we see as we explore the passageways of Mammoth Cave."
I can barely go more than a foot. wall. We have discovered that different species of cartilaginous fishes (chondrichthyes) occupy different ecological niches, ranging from large predators to small sharks, in their habitat of underwater crinoid forests. I'm observing. ”
One of these interesting species was the previously unknown Strigilodus tollonae. Its petal-shaped teeth are the origin of its name, which means "Tolleson's scraper teeth." The name also recognises park manager Kelly Tolleson's "outstanding support on the ground" during the investigation. Although this shark species was still relatively recently cataloged, it has unique tooth and fin characteristics. Because most of the fossils are in parts of the cave that are inaccessible to the public, NPS released two 3D photogrammetry images of the shark fossils. Viewers can explore Glimanius and the ecosystem's top predator, Cybodus and his Striatus. For those who have trouble imagining fossils, NPS presents images that offer an artistic glimpse into the fact that an ancient shallow sea was teeming with life long before there were caves at this point today.