Scientists have discovered an ancient shark species that survived for approximately 165 million years before it went extinct. This species, known as Ptychodus mortoni, was a filter-feeding shark that inhabited the oceans during the Cretaceous period. The ancient shark had a unique tooth structure that allowed it to filter out plankton from the water, making it an efficient predator.
Researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of Iowa analyzed teeth belonging to Ptychodus mortoni specimens from different locations around the world. They found that the teeth of this ancient shark had a complex arrangement of ridges and cusps that enabled efficient filtration of tiny organisms.
The study also revealed that Ptychodus mortoni likely swam close to the surface, where plankton concentration is high, and used its specialized teeth to capture and consume planktonic organisms. This unique adaptation allowed the species to thrive in the oceans for millions of years and occupy a niche as a filter-feeding predator.
However, despite its successful adaptation, the Ptychodus mortoni eventually went extinct around 66 million years ago, during the mass extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs. The exact cause of its extinction remains unknown, but the researchers speculate that changes in environmental conditions or competition with other species could have played a role.
The discovery and analysis of the teeth of this ancient shark provide valuable insights into the evolution of filter-feeding sharks and their ecological significance in prehistoric oceans. Understanding the adaptations and lifestyles of ancient species like Ptychodus mortoni contributes to our knowledge of the Earth's history and the dynamics of marine ecosystems over millions of years.