An amateur fossil hunter in Australia has just made the find of a lifetime: a rare set of teeth from a giant prehistoric mega-shark, the first of its kind found on the continent.
Philip Mullaly, a schoolteacher from Victoria, was walking along a beach in Melbourne on the hunt for fossils. This was less a shot in the dark than it sounds: Southern Australia is actually rich in fossils, and Mullaly was walking near a region named .
Taking a second glance at a rock he had already passed once before, Mullaly noticed what appeared to be a shiny blade.
A closer look revealed something extraordinary. It was a jagged, narrow tooth from a Carcharocles angustidens, a mega-shark that 21 feet in length. Their teeth were serrated, not unlike a modern steak knife.
During the Oligocene era, around 33.9 million to 23 million years ago, the C. angustidens was one of the planet's most dominant predators, ruling the planet's oceans. Fossilized remains of the ancient Giant White Shark have been found all over the planet, from Mississippi to France. But a set of teeth is still a very rare find, considering how most fossilized teeth only emerge as individuals.
These teeth are of international significance, as they represent one of just three associated groupings of Carcharocles angustidens teeth in the world, and the very first set to ever be discovered in Australia," says Erich Fitzgerald, a senior curator at Museums Victoria, which investigated Mullaly's find after the initial discovery, in a .
Fitzgerald led a team of paleontologists, volunteers, and Mullaly on two expeditions of the site and they discovered over 40 teeth, which he suspects all come from the same shark.
Astonishingly, that's not all the site revealed. There were also several smaller teeth from a sixgill shark, which still roams the seas today.
It's been a good year for amateur science, especially fossil hunters. Earlier this year, an 11-year old in Tennessee found a 475-million-year-old trilobite in exceptional condition. And outside NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, a "Rosetta Stone of the Cretaceous Period" was discovered near the parking lot.