Scientists Discover New Prehistoric Shark Species

Chicago’s Field Museum is among the world’s best natural history museums, famous for housing a remarkable number of exquisite animal specimens.  Among these specimens is a Tyrannosaurus rex fossil named SUE:  the largest and most complete T-rex fossil in the world. 

SUE is perhaps the most famous fossil in modern history, but she is being overshadowed today by the discovery of a new species of prehistoric shark.  The creature has been named Galagadon nordquisteae because it has tiny teeth that look like the spaceships you will find in the classic arcade cabinet Galaga.  

Sharks are among the most successful organisms to have ever lived on this planet.  Indeed, their fossil record spans back at least 400 million years, and this remarkable stretch includes many different types of ancient species.  

But this particular shark is an interesting find because they actually uncovered it in the same plot from which SUE was extracted nearly thirty years ago. You see, when archaeologists removed the T-rex bones from the ground, they left the encasing rock—called the matrix—around the bones to help preserve them until more detailed work could be performed.  And then when they finally were able to remove this matrix from the bones to assemble the skeleton, the Chicago Field Museum kept the matrix to continue sifting and studying later. 

And that is how they came to find these petrified tidbits of sharp teeth about the size of a pinhead.  The researchers theorize that these teeth must have come from a shark that would have been active throughout the rivers that streamed in the area where SUE lived. 

In a press release, Chicago Field Museum curator of dinosaurs Pete Makovicky comments, “This shark lived at the same time as Sue, the T-rex, it was part of the same word.”  The study author also goes on to say, “Most of its body wasn’t preserved, because shark’s skeletons are made of cartilage, but we were able to find its tiny fossilized teeth.”

Naming the new species, though, was a special charge. The researchers immediately recognized that the teeth looked like the space invaders icons from the classic 1981 arcade game, Galaga, and coined its name. North Carolina University paleontologist Terry Gates then characterized the new shark species in the Journal of Paleontology.