Scientists have discovered a never-before-seen species of shark that had huge eyes and a jaw that was so frightening it should be in a sci-fi movie. The new species, which has been named Ferromirum oukherbouchi, was a member of the chondrichthyan species (a group of cartilaginous fish that includes sharks, rays, skates, and chimaeras). It roamed the waters near Morocco about 370 million years ago.
Its jaw rotated inwards when its mouth was closed, but once it opened its mouth, the jaw would stretch down with sharp teeth that curved upwards. Interestingly, when its mouth was closed, the teeth would lie flat along the sides.
This is quite different from today’s sharks that grow new teeth once the old ones are worn down. However, with the Ferromirum oukherbouchi, it would grow new teeth alongside the older ones. The new teeth would curve upwards towards the shark’s tongue and whenever it opened its mouth, the cartilage that was located in the back of its jaw would become flexed so the sides of its jaw could “fold down” in order to better capture its food.
As for its appearance, it had a small, lean body that was only around 13 inches in length. It had a short, triangular shaped snout and extremely large eyes. Since its jaw was very well preserved, experts were able to perform a CT scan on it and digitally modelled it into 3D and that’s how they discovered that the center of its jaw wasn’t fused down, meaning that it could bend outwards when it opened its mouth. (A picture of the 3D models and an image of what the species would have looked like millions of years ago can be seen here.)
Linda Frey, who is a doctoral candidate with the Institut für Paläontologie und Paläontologisches Museum at the University of Zurich in Switzerland and the lead author of the study, explained this further, “Through this rotation, the younger, larger and sharper teeth, which usually pointed toward the inside of the mouth, were brought into an upright position. This made it easier for animals to impale their prey.”
In a statement from the University of Zurich, Frey added that when the shark closed its jaw, its teeth would rotate inwards in order to trap its prey while the water that entered its mouth would push its food towards its throat. These unique jaw movements have never been seen before in any other fish.
Their research was published in the journal Communications Biology where it can be read in full.