NAT GEO: Mysterious Ancient Predator Sharklike Helicoprion Had a Killer Jaw

By  //  December 19, 2019

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evolutionary outlier from 275 million years ago

The sharklike Helicoprion lived 275 million years ago and could slice its prey in two with its buzz saw jaw. The fossils resembled blades of circular saws. (NationalGeographic.com image)

 The sharklike Helicoprion lived 275 million years ago and could slice its prey in two with its buzz saw jaw.

The fossils resembled blades of circular saws. Frozen in time, some of the ancient impressions revealed up to 150 razor-sharp wedges in tightly wrapped spirals, or whorls.

For more than a century, scientists questioned: What were they? Answer: The killer jaws of the Helicoprion, an evolutionary outlier from 275 million years ago.

In 2011, a tooth whorl from a Helicoprion was discovered in the Phosphoria site in Idaho. The tooth whorl measured 18 inches in length.

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Comparisons with other Helicoprion specimens show that the animal that sported this whorl would have been 33 feet in length, and another, even bigger tooth whorl that was discovered in the 1980s which the discoverers dubbed IMNH 49382 or “Boise” was discovered at the same site.

The whorl is incomplete, but in life it would have been 24 inches long and would have belonged to an animal that possibly exceeded 39 feet in length, making Helicoprion the largest known eugeneodont.

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