Among the many dangling bats, vibrant orange salamanders, and plentiful cave crickets that decision Mammoth Cave home, the profile of a new kind of animal is beginning to emerge after the latest discovery.
Round nightfall Thursday, with a highlight strapped to his helmet, Rick Toomey pried open the heavy iron door to just a little identified cave entrance at Mammoth Cave National Park. He led WDRB News down into the darkness. “That is the doorway,” stated Toomey, the park’s cave specialist, and analysis coordinator. “The cave is my workplace.”
Within the cool, damp tunnel, mined nearly a century in the past and absent any everlasting lighting, Toomey clambered down roughly eight tales of stairs earlier than reaching the cave ground. “Welcome to the cave,” he mentioned as he pointed at a close-by wall. “That is the place issues are taking place.”
Over the previous few years, Toomey and a colleague began noticing brownish fragments embedded within the wall. Sometimes, fossils are beige in the shade. These fossils had been completely different.
Additional exploration continued to yield the bizarre outcomes: extra brown fossils. All of them seemed to be the relics of now-extinct sharks. Some are jaggedly sharp. Others are uninteresting and flat.
The finds did not shock Toomey too much. Kentucky was underwater lots of millions of years in the past, he stated. “Kentucky was the taking place to go scuba diving or snorkeling,” he stated with amusing. “It might’ve been a terrific place for snorkeling, sharks, however.” However, then, the explorers found one thing much more uncommon. Underneath a pointy overhang on the cave wall, they discovered what regarded just like the jaw of a shark.
Images of Toomey’s findings had been finally despatched up the chain to Maryland, the place J.P. Hodnett is a paleontologist on the Dinosaur Park outdoors Washington, D.C. “They have been excited as a result of like, ‘Oh wow, these are actually cool sharks’ tooth within our cave, however, what sort of sharks are they?”‘ Hodnett remembered.
Hodnett rapidly recognized the specimens. The jaw, he hypothesized, belonged to an extinct shark referred to as Saivadus, which lived 330 million years in the past and has since gone extinct. Hodnett says not a lot is understood about that species, which rivaled the scale of a great white shark.