Spectacular fossil discovery: 150 million-year-old shark was one of largest of its time

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Tentative life reconstruction of the hybodontiform shark Asteracanthus; for scale see silhouettes at the right lower corner (© Sebastian Stumpf/Fabrizio...
Cartilaginous fishes, which include sharks and rays, are one of the most successful vertebrate groups still alive today. Due to their life-long tooth replacement, teeth of cartilaginous fishes are among the most common fossil vertebrate finds. However, the low preservation potential of their cartilaginous skeletons prevents fossilization of completely preserved specimens in most cases. The extremely rare preservation of fossil cartilaginous fish skeletons is therefore linked to special conditions during fossilization and restricted to a few fossil-bearing localities only.

The Solnhofen limestones in Bavaria, Germany, which were formed during the Late Jurassic, about 150 million years ago, is such a rare occurrence. They are world-renowned for having produced skeletons of the small feathered dinosaur Archaeopteryx and have yielded numerous shark and ray skeletons, recovered during excavations over the past 150 years. A new study published in the journal "Papers in Palaeontology" and led by the paleontologist Sebastian…
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