Scientists discover extinct giant shark nursery in Panama

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Washington, May 18 (ANI): An extinct giant shark nursery has been discovered in Panama.

The six-foot-long babies of the world's biggest shark species, Carcharocles megalodon, frolicked in the warm shallow waters of an ancient shark nursery in what is now Panama, report paleontologists working at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the University of Florida.

Catalina Pimiento, visiting scientist at STRI and graduate student at the University of Florida, said: "Adult giant sharks, at 60-70 feet in length, faced few predators, but young sharks faced predation from larger sharks. As in several modern shark species, juvenile giant sharks probably spent this vulnerable stage of their lives in shallow water where food was plentiful and large predators had difficulty maneuvering."

Paleontologists from the Smithsonian and the University of Florida collected more than 400 fossil shark teeth from Panama4s 10-million-year-old Gatun Formation as part of ongoing work to reveal the origins of this narrow land-bridge that rose to connect North and South America about 3 million years ago.

Pimiento added: "The 28 teeth that we identified as C. megalodon were mostly from neonates and juveniles."

Researchers used reference collections at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History and the Florida Museum of Natural History to characterize the teeth.

STRI staff scientist Carlos Jaramillo, who heads the Canal excavation project, said: "Very little is known about the life cycle of this giant shark that ruled the oceans not so long ago. Now we think that the young spent their first years close to the coast among mangroves."

The team discarded several other explanations for the concentration of small teeth at the site. Before their discovery in Panama, two other fossil beds have been proposed as paleo-shark nurseries: the Williamsburg Formation from the Paleocene and the Oligocene Chandler Bridge Formation, both in the U.S. state of South Carolina.

The sandy soils of the Gatun Formation have been used for years to make cement. Soon these outcrops will be exhausted. Scientists continue to race against the clock to find out more about the ancient inhabitants of the region. (ANI)

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