Creature Feature: Stethacanthus

Stethacanthus_BW

This week we continue to examine prehistoric sharks with a look at a smaller, almost modern-looking shark. The Stehacanthus shark lived during the Late Devonian period-Early Carboniferous, approximately 390-320 million years ago. It was relatively small, growing to 3 feet and only weighing 10-20 pounds. This shark could almost be confused for “modern” sharks living today, except for the unusually shaped dorsal (top) fin on the males—this fin is topped by a broad flat “ironing board”.

There are a few theories about this strange protrusion also known as the “spine-brush complex”. One of the theories is that it is used in mating. The top of this fin was rough, covered in tooth like scales, believed to help the males attach themselves to the female. A second theory is that this protrusion helped this shark survive by making it seem that its mouth was larger than it actually was. Click here to read an abstract about this unique dorsal fin.

Join us next week to for our last peek at prehistoric sharks.

Edited by Felicia Van Stolk

Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stethacanthus_BW.jpg

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