COLUMBIA, SC (AP) – A team of scientists from South Carolina and Alabama have discovered a new species of shark that lived nearly 30 million years ago thanks to the discovery of the animal’s teeth that are so small you could fit on the tip of a pencil.
The shark was probably less than 2 feet (60 centimeters) long and was named Scyliorhinus weemsi after renowned geologist and paleontologist Dr. Robert Weems of the United States Geological Survey.
“There are about 15 living members of this genus in the world’s oceans today, but their ancestry dates back to the time of the dinosaurs,” said scientist Jun Ebersole of the McWane Science Center in Birmingham, Alabama, in a communicated.
Ebersole worked with David Cicimurri and James Knight of the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia on a larger study of fossils of sharks and other bony fishes from the Oligocene period about 30 years ago.
Sea levels were much higher then, but the Earth was cooling and ice caps were forming at the poles, Cicimurri said.
“Studies like ours help determine how plants and animals responded to climate change in the distant past, allowing us to predict responses to future climate change,” he said.
The microscopic teeth of the newly discovered shark species have been found in Summerville, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the ocean. At the time, the area was under 300 feet (91 meters) of water.
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