A prehistoric shark with wing-like fins for whizzing through the oceans has been discovered by a team of European and Mexican palaeontologists.
The 93-million-year-old eagle shark from the Cretaceous period was found in northeast Mexico and is believed to have feasted on plankton.
According to Roman Vullo, a palaeontologist at the State Museum of Natural History in the German city of Karlsruhe, the fossil was discovered in the municipality of Vallecillo in Mexico in 2012.
The fossil later came to the attention of local palaeontologist Margarito Gonzalez Gonzales who preserved the shark’s skeleton.
It is believed that the so-called ‘Eagle shark’ or Aquilolamna milarcae, which was six feet long and had a pectoral span of six feet and three inches, possessed huge wing-like pectoral fins which enabled it to speed through the ocean.
Dr Eberhard Frey of the State Museum of Natural History in Karlsruhe said: “The physique of Aquilolamna milarcae is really extraordinary.”
As no teeth remains have been found, researchers believe it belongs to the same family of sharks that includes the mako and basking sharks. Its broad head and long wing-like fins suggest Aquilolamna milarcae was not a predator, but more of a plankton lover.
Professor Wolfgang Stinnesbeck from the University of Heidelberg said: “It is very likely the eagle shark was a plankton eater, similar to today’s whale sharks or manta rays.”
Dr Romain Vullo, a palaeontologist from the University of Rennes in France and the study’s lead author, explained: “My first thoughts on seeing the fossil were that this unique morphology is totally new and unknown among sharks.”
Dr Christina Ifrim, head of Jura Museum in the German town of Eichstatt said the fossil was found in a limestone quarry in Mexico.
She added: “This limestone is strikingly similar to the famous limestone slab in the foreland of the Southern Franconian Alb (Franconian Jura). It contains numerous fossils that provide a unique view of the living world in the open ocean 93 millions ago, including sea turtles, sharks, sea dinosaurs and ammonites.”
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