#fossilfriday pictures of one of the coolest and most enigmatic fossils in paleontology: Helicoprion. These fossils are represented as isolated teeth of an ancient shark-like cartilagenous fish 🦈 but with a twist: the teeth are arranged in a spiral! 😯 For over a century since it's initial description in 1899, paleontologists debated and proposed the most imaginative reconstructions to explain how a shark-like animal could have a spiraling set of teeth. These fossils are found all over the world in Permian-aged rock (~280 million years ago), including Idaho from where a new Helicoprion fossil was reported in 2013 that would finally solve this mystery. Cartilage doesn't preserve well in the fossil record, leaving behind only the teeth of these long extinct fish, but, in rare instances, remnants of the cartilage can be preserved. A team led by Idaho State University and Idaho Museum of Natural History paleontologists, Leif Tapanila and Jesse Pruitt, reported such an instance for a new Helicoprion fossil. They CT scanned this new fossil discovery and found evidence for how this 'tooth whorl' would attach inside the jaws of the ancient shark-like animal. It formed a buzz saw-like configuration, which allowed it to resorb it's teeth rather than shed them and allowed for it to attack prey with more of a chopping motion (great videos btw of them using a model of this to cut open watermelons 😂 science!) Tapanila et al. 2013:
Photos taken by me at the Idaho Museum of Natural History.
Artistic depictions by Ray Troll.
#paleontology #science #fossil #shark #idaho #museum #idahomuseumofnaturalhistory #idahostateuniversity