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Researchers are stunned by this ancient discovery of shark fossils in Mammoth Cave National Park.

USA TODAY

A new discovery in Mammoth Cave National Park makes us happy that today’s Kentucky has no access to the sea.

A team of scientists in Mammoth Cave National Park has discovered a “treasure trove of fossils” consisting of at least 40 different species of sharks and their relatives in the last 10 months. Park officials say it is one of the most diverse shark fauna in Mississippi in North America.

Paleozoic species are also called “Mississippian”, a term used by North American geologists to describe the period between 358.9 and 298.9 million years, according to the National Park Service.

During the Mississippi period, shallow seas covered much of North America, including Kentucky. During this time, the first amphibians began to appear, as well as the cave system, which became the Mammoth Cave.

Officials said the discovery included six new species and rare preservatives of three-dimensional skeletal cartilage.

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The fossil-rich limestone of the Mammoth Cave is known to contain fossils such as glacial mammals and shark teeth and fin spines.

“I am absolutely amazed by the variety of sharks we see as we explore the passages that make up the Mammoth Cave. We can hardly move more than a few feet because another tooth or spine has been spotted in the ceiling or wall of the cave, ”said John-Paul Hodnett of the National Metropolitan Park and Planning Commission of Maryland.

Hodnet, a fossil shark specialist, was called in to help identify the fossils.

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“We see a number of different types of chondrites [cartilaginous fish] that fill a variety of ecological niches, from large predators to small sharks that have lived among the crinoids [sea lily] a forest on the seabed that was their habitat, ”Hodnett said.

You are unlikely to come across the next big find. Officials said most of the shark fossils were found in areas inaccessible to visitors during cave tours.

“We here at Mammoth Cave are very excited to find that we have such an important set of fossils in the park. Although we know we have several shark teeth in the limestone exposed in the cave, we never imagined that we would have the abundance and variety of sharks that JP Hodnett has identified, “said Rick Toomey, Cave Resource Management Coordinator. in Mammoth Cave National Park.

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