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Tue May 26, 2020, 01:30 AM

Great white shark "paleo-nursery" discovered in Chile

By Ben Coxworth
May 25, 2020

eat white sharks may get big when they grow up, but the babies are still relatively small and in need of protection from predators Whitepointer/Depositphotos

Although the great white shark is one of the ocean's top predators, it's still considered a vulnerable species. Now, for the first time, scientists have discovered what is claimed to be a prehistoric nursery site for the sharks – and it could have implications for protecting them today.

Led by University of Vienna paleontologist Jaime A. Villafaña, an international team of scientists recently conducted a statistical analysis of 2 to 5 million-year-old great white shark teeth found in several sites along the Pacific coast of Chile and Peru. The teeth are typically all that remain of deceased prehistoric sharks, due to the fact that the animals' cartilaginous skeletons don't fossilize.

Based on the dimensions of the teeth, the scientists were able to estimate the body sizes and thus ages of the great whites they came from. One Northern Chilean location – an area known as Coquimbo – had the highest percentage of young sharks, the lowest number of adolescents, and a complete lack of adults.

This finding strongly suggests that the site was a nursery, where adult sharks protected babies from predators until they were large enough to fend for themselves. Although such nurseries still exist now, this is reportedly the first time that one has been discovered dating back to prehistoric times.


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