WUFT News

Researchers find changes in great white shark’s origin

By on November 15th, 2012

Illustration by Jason Bourque / Florida Museum of Natural History

Great whites are the largest predatory fish on earth, according to National Geographic. Popularized by the movie “Jaws,” many know of this animal, but a new study shows the creature’s pedigree has changed.

In a study published Wednesday in Paleontology, University of Florida researchers described an intermediate form of the great white shark, depicting that the shark is more closely related to broad-toothed mako sharks rather than its classification of a megatooth shark.

Dana Ehret, one of the authors of the study and a lecturer at Monmouth University in New Jersey, said his team analyzed the fossils of a great white found in Peru during the 1980s by a farmer, and collector Gordon Hubbell helped to dig them up.

“Really what we’re looking at here is a transition from a mako shark to a modern white shark during the Miocene period about 6 to 8 million years ago,” he said.

The study concludes the species is about 2 million years old than originally believed.

Hubbell, who used to work as a zoologist at a Miami zoo, donated the skeleton to the Florida Museum of Natural History in 2009, according to news from the University of Florida.

The shark, Carcharodon hubbelli, was named after the donator and has been attributed to in the recently published study. The analysis of the shark was based on a complete set of teeth and 45 vertebrae.

“Some of the big challenges again are finding the specimens that are good enough to be able to say somethng about  the evolution history of things like white sharks,” Ehret said.

The relation to the mako shark was determine by comparing the physical shapes of each shark’s teeth. Ehret said the new findings make in interested to look for more rare species.

“It’s made me really scour the museum collections for those really rare specimens,” he said.

According to University of Florida news, co-authors of the study include Bruce MacFadden of the Florida Museum, Thomas DeVries of the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, David Foster of the University of Florida and Rodolfo Salas-Gismondi of Museo de Historia Natural Javier Prado in Lima, Peru.

Kelsey Meany wrote this story for online.


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