Great White Shark Gallery - The Prehistoric Mako and White Sharks - Great White Shark Fossil History, Evolution, Facts, Fossil Shark Teeth, and Information










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Mako & White Shark Collecting Location:
PCS Mine, Aurora, NC



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Calvert CLiffs, MD



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Facts and Information about the Great White Sharks and the Mako Sharks - Including Fossil Identification and Hunting locations


Video of a blond riding the fin of a Great White Shark.

A Great White Shark Photo - by Grant Peters
This amazing image of a Great White Shark was photographed by Grant Peters

Carcharodon (Smith, 1838) - Great White Shark
Cosmopolitodus (Glikman, 1964) - Giant White Shark
Isurus (Rafinesque, 1810) - Mako Sharks

The Mako Sharks and the White Sharks (Giant Whites and Great Whites)


Mako shark lineage is even more confusing than the megalodon lineage. To simplify things a bit, the Isurus, Cosmopolitodus, and Carcharodon genus are all on the same page so their relationships with one another can be more easily understood.

The issue is the names of these prehistoric beasts come from the old Linnaean taxonomy system which does not take into account the evolutionary relationships that Cladistics provide.

Shark Facts and Information
Great White Shark Evolution Giant White Shark
Cosmopolitodus
Great White Shark
Carcharodon
Mako Shark
Isurus
Fossil Tooth Morphology Shark Fossil Examples



fossil mako shark tooth from the calvert formation in VA fossil giant white shark tooth from Aurora, NC fossil mako shark tooth from the calvert cliffs of MD
fossil great white shark tooth from North Carolina fossil mako shark tooth from maryland

Information about Prehistoric White Sharks

Cosmopolitodus xiphodon (Giant White Shark) composite tooth dentition from Aurora, NC
Composite Dentition of an Extinct Giant White Shark
The History and Evolution of The Great White Shark (Charcarodon) in a nutshell

For years paleontologists have hotly debated the origins of the Great White shark. Due to relatively new fossil finds in Peru and new finds of associated partial dentitions of Mako and Megatooth shark species, it has become clear that Carcharodon Carcharias, the Great White shark, evolved from an ancestral Mako shark. Some of the evidence includes the following:

1. In 2006, Nyberg et al, did a morphometric analysis (a very detailed structure analysis) of various carcharocles species, Mako species, transition fossils, and Great Whites. They concluded great whites evolved from ancestral Mako sharks and not the Megatooth sharks.

2. During the late 1990's, associated partial fossil dentitions of C. carcharias, C. hastalis, C. megalodon, and C. angustidens were found. These finds show that Great White dentitions look nearly identical to dentitions of Makos, not Megatooth sharks. View Jim Bourdon's article on "Great White evolution" at Elasmo.com for images of an associated Great White dentition from the Sacaco region in Peru.

3. The fossil record from the Pisco formation in the Sacaco region of Peru nicely shows the evolution of Great Whites. First there are broad-form Makos, then Makos with serrations, then Great Whites, all in chronological order. Aside from serrations, the teeth are virtually identical. Refer to Lutz Andres' article for more information on this.

To reflect the evolution of Makos to Great Whites, the ancestral Makos that gave rise to Great Whites are given the genus name “Cosmopolitodus” instead of “Isurus” by some Paleontologists. Now we can call these "Mako" sharks White sharks. Therefore, for clarity, the Cosmopolitodus = Great White shark lineage and the Isurus = Mako shark lineage.

One may now be wondering if all the other large sharks with serrations have anything to do with Great White evolution.

Well no, nature invented serrations and Great White looking sharks many times in the fossil record. None of these creatures survive to today. Think of them as extinct White Sharks.

Notable "extinct Whites" include:

Cosmopolitodus escheri aka Isurus escheri: This is a White shark with very fine serrations. It is sometimes thought to be a "transition" from Mako to Great White. However, it appears too early in the Miocene for it to be a "transitional" fossil. This shark became extinct by the middle of the Pliocene, and is a dead end link. One can think of this as a failed cousin to the modern Great White shark.

Paleocarcharodon orientalis: This is a medium sized serrated Mako/Mackerel looking shark with side cusps. It is found worldwide and was a very short lived species. It appeared and then disappeared in the Paleocene, and is a dead end link. It is not related at all to modern Great White sharks.
If you want to see what one of these fossil shark teeth looked like, go to the Potomac River page of this website, and look at the "Sample of fossils found" section.

Carcharocles sp.: The whole lineage of Megatooth sharks is extinct. These serrated monsters arose in the Eocene and became extinct in the Pliocene. The whole genus is a dead end link, and not related to modern Great White sharks. These super predators simply became too specialized for their own good.



The Cosmopolitodus genus (Prehistoric Giant White Shark)

Cosmopolitodus xiphodon (Giant White Shark) fossil tooth from Aurora, NC
Composite Dentition of an Extinct Giant White Shark

The genus Cosmopolitodus first appeared in the Oligocene. It is represented by scarce fossil teeth found in Belgium. By the Miocene, there were two types of Cosmopolitodus: a broad-form shark, C. xiphodon, and a narrow-form shark, C. hastalis. Both of these sharks became extinct by the middle of the Pliocene.

C. xiphodon aka I. xiphodon aka I hastalis broad-form: This is the broad-form extinct Giant White shark. This is the largest of the Cosmopolitodus lineage. It appeared in the Miocene and became extinct in the mid Pliocene. Teeth from these predators can reach sizes over 3". This top predator became extinct just as the modern Great White became more common. This is probably not a coincidence; they would have probably lived in the same environments and had the same food source, and therefore competed. The modern Great White with serrated teeth would have had an advantage over the C. xiphodon with non-serrated teeth.

C. hastalis aka I. hastalis narrow-form: This is the narrow-form extinct Giant White shark. This is another large Cosmopolitodus species. The teeth of this species tend to be slightly narrower than the teeth of C. xiphodon. It was around during the same time period as C. xiphodon, from the Miocene into the mid Pliocene.

In the middle Miocene, C. hastalis gave rise to two new species: C. planus and C. escheri.

C. planus aka I. planus: C. planus was a species that has hastalis looking teeth, but with upper teeth that are hooked. C. planus was a short lived species; it became extinct at the end of the Miocene. C. planus remains are also only found in Pacific sediments, such as California and Japan.

C. escheri aka I. escheri: C. escheri was an hastalis with very weak serrations. It ranges from the late Miocene into early Pliocene, and is found only in Atlantic deposits, such as in the Netherlands. Although C. escheri had developed slight serrations, it is not a transitional fossil for the modern Great White shark.



The Carcharodon genus (Great White Shark Facts and Information) Great White Shark at the Monterey Aquarium
This photo of the Great White Shark at the Monterey Aquarium was taken by Erik Charlton

Carcharodon carcharias: The Great White shark probably originated either in the late Miocene or early Pliocene, depending if one places the transitional fossils into Carcharodon genus or Cosmopolitodus genus. The fossil record from the Pisco formation in the Sacaco region of Peru shows the evolution of Great Whites nicely. There are broad-form "Makos," "Makos" with serrations, then Great Whites, all in chronological order. Aside from the serrations, the teeth and dentitions are all virtually identical. For more information on this, see Lutz Andres' article.

The modern Great White shark, C. carcharias, is a top predator today. Besides the plankton-feeding Basking and Whale sharks, Great Whites are among the largest of flesh- eating sharks (The Greenland shark may be slightly larger). According to the FAO, Great Whites range on average between 4 feet (1.3 m) and 18 feet (5.5m). As for the largest one ever caught, the Canadian Shark Research Laboratory reports the largest Great White ever accurately measured was 20.6 feet (6.3 m), although there are allot of "fish tales" in pop culture of larger ones. Monster 3" Fossil Great White teeth indicate they could reach lengths in the mid 20 foot (7.5 m) range.

Great Whites are usually found near shore and globally in all tropical and temperate waters. In the Americas, they range from southern Alaska and Nova Scotia down to Chile. In Eurasia, they range from Russia to New Zealand, and Britain to South Africa. Famous Great White locations include California, Australia, and South Africa.

Great Whites favorite food consists of pinnipeds, such as sea lions. Populations of Great Whites can often be found near sea lion colonies. Although pinnipeds are their favorite meal, they will eat just about anything, but I didn't have to tell you that!




The Isurus genus (Mako Shark Facts)

Isurus is the true Mako genus. Sometime in the Miocene, Isurus desori branched into two species of mako, I. retroflexus aka I. paucus, and I. oxyrhinchus. These two mako species survive today. The Short-fin Mako (I. oxyrinchus) is more common than the Long-fin Mako (I. paucus). Both Makos are very similar, but the Long-fin Mako has a slimmer body and larger fins.

Makos are pelagic, they prefer the open ocean, and live in tropical and temperate waters worldwide. They are also very hydrodynamic, and are among the fastest fish. Depending on the source, they can attain speeds anywhere from 20 mph to 30 mph. According to the FMNH, the average adult size is around 10 feet (3.2 m). Because of their size and speed, Makos are a popular sport fish.

Fossil Makos: As with the Megatooth sharks, and the Great Whites, there are currently many ongoing disputes about Isurus origins and the correct number and names of Mako species in the fossil record. As a result, fossil Isurus species will not be discussed here, unless they were grouped in the Cosmopolitodus genera above.

Mako Shark photo
This is a photo of a shortfin Mako shark... Obviously caught. The image was taken by Rengber
Notice the streamlined body.






Fossil Mako and White Shark Tooth Morphology
Isurus oxyrinchus Cosmopolitodus hastalis Cosmopolitodus xiphodon Carcharodon carcharias
The following tooth I.D. diagrams show upper and lower teeth of the following species: I. oxyrinchus, C. hastalis, C. xiphodon, and C. carcharias,


Isurus oxyrinchus aka Isurus desori (The Mako Shark)

Isurus oxyrinchus, an extant Mako shark is thought by some to be the same as I. desori, an extinct mako shark. Therefore, I oxyrinchus may be synonymous with I desori.

These teeth are also very similar to I. paucus, the other extant Mako shark. It is currently being debated wether or not some Isurus tooth forms are of I paucus. If I paucus is to be differentiated from I oxyrinchus in the fossil specimens, the differences are very slight, and will not be discussed here.

I oxyrinchus upper teeth are have long, slender crowns. Their roots are long in the anterior section of the mouth and become more squarish as the teeth transition to laterals. Also the crowns of upper laterals tend to be broader than the upper anteriors.

Lower teeth also have long, slender crowns that have a lingual bend. The crowns however remain more peg-like as the teeth transition to laterals.

Below are two diagrams, one of an upper anterior tooth, and one of a lower anterior tooth.

I. oxyrinchus upper A2 tooth from the Pungo formation near Aurora, NC


I. oxyrinchus lower A3 tooth from the Calvert CLiffs of MD




Cosmopolitodus hastalis aka Isurus hastalis narrow-form

Cosmopolitodus hastalis teeth have broader crowns than I. oxyrinchus teeth. The roots are also more compressed, or less elongated, than on I. oxyrinchus teeth.

Below are two diagrams, one of an upper anterior tooth, and one of a lower anterior tooth.


C. hastalis upper tooth from the calvert formation along the Potomac River, Va

fossil mako shark tooth dentition
C hastalis lower tooth from the Pungo River formation near Aurora, NC


The image below shows composite rows of upper and lower teeth for C. hastalis. This image shows how the teeth change depending on the position in the mouth.


Cosmopolitodus xiphodon aka Isurus hastalis broad-form

Cosmopolitodus xiphodon teeth are similar to the C. hastalis teeth, except the crowns are are broader, and the roots are more compressed. Often, it looks as if the enamel goes all the way to the mesial and distal ends of the root. This gives them a very broad appearance.

Below are two diagrams, one of an upper anterior tooth, and one of a lower anterior tooth.

fossil giant white shark tooth identification
C. xiphodon upper anterior tooth from the Yorktown formation near Aurora, NC


C. xiphodon lower tooth from Aurora, NC


The image below shows composite rows of upper and lower teeth for C. xiphodon. This image shows how the teeth change depending on the position in the mouth. fossil giant white shark tooth dentition



Carcharodon carcharias

Carcharodon carcharias are most similar to I. xiphodon teeth. The difference, of course, is the serrations. C. carcharias have medium to coarse serrations that are irregular. Irregular means the serrations are not all a constant size as in C. megalodons. Instead, the size of each serration varies. This is shown in the diagram below.


Broken C. carcharias tooth from Aurora, NC





Mako, Great White, and Giant White Shark Fossil Examples

The Mako and White Sharks:
I. oxyrinchus, C. hastalis , C. xiphodon , C. carcharias



Isurus oxyrinchus aka Isurus desori
Shortfin Mako Shark



Formation:
  • Pungo River or Yorktown
    Age:
  • Early - Middle Miocene ~ 18-15 m.y.
    Location:
  • PCS Mine, Aurora, NC
    Size:2" (51mm)


  • Formation:
  • Pungo River or Yorktown
    Age:
  • Early - Middle Miocene ~ 18-15 m.y.
    Location:
  • PCS Mine, Aurora, NC
    Size:
  • largest tooth is 2" (51mm)
  • This beauty (a lower anterior) is as big as my lee creek mako finds!

    Left is the lingual view, right is the profile view.

    Formation:
  • Calvert, Plum Point member
    Age:
  • Early - Middle Miocene ~ 18-15 m.y.
    Location:
  • Willows, Calvert Co., MD
    Size:
  • 2" (51mm)
    Date:
  • Spring 2002

  • This is an upper anterior tooth

    Formation:
  • Pungo River
    Age:
  • Early - Middle Miocene ~ 18-15 m.y.
    Location:
  • PCS Mine, Aurora, NC
    Size:
  • largest tooth is 1 9/16" (39mm)
    Date:
  • Sept. 2008 Trip

  • This is an upper lateral tooth

    Formation:
  • Pungo River
    Age:
  • Early - Middle Miocene ~ 18-15 m.y.
    Location:
  • PCS Mine, Aurora, NC
    Size:
  • largest tooth is 1 1/4" (31mm)
    Date:
  • Sept. 2008 Trip



  • Cosmopolitodus hastalis aka Isurus hastalis(Agassiz, 1843) Extinct White Shark
    This is a nice 2" upper mako that I found in a clay block.

    Click on the pic to see the trip it was found on.

    Formation:
  • Calvert
    Age:
  • Early - Middle Miocene ~ 18-15 m.y.
    Location:
  • Chesapeake Bay Area, VA
    Size:
  • ~ 2" (51mm) slant
    Date:
  • August 2007 TRIP
  • Here are two I. hastalis teeth

    Formation:
  • ?Pungo River
    Age:
  • ~ 18-20 m.y.
    Location:
  • PCS Mine, Aurora, NC
    Size:
  • Largest one has a 1 7/8" slant" (48mm)
  • Here is a pristine mako. Found in a fresh fall, it never made it to the water to get worn.

    Click on the pic to see the trip it was found on.

    Formation:
  • Calvert, Plum Point member
    Age:
  • Early - Middle Miocene ~ 18-15 m.y.
    Location:
  • Calvert Cliffs, Calvert Co., MD
    Size:
  • ~ 1 11/16" (43mm) slant
    Date:
  • July 2006 TRIP
  • This is a nice 2" lower that Amy found in a clay block.

    Click on the pic to see the trip it was found on.

    Formation:
  • Calvert
    Age:
  • Early - Middle Miocene ~ 18-15 m.y.
    Location:
  • Calvert Cliffs, Calvert Co., MD
    Size:
  • ~ 2" (51mm) slant
    Date:
  • November 2006 TRIP
  • Here is a nice orange colored tooth from Brownies Beach.

    Click on the pic to see the trip it was found on.

    Formation:
  • Calvert, Plum Pt. member
    Age:
  • Early - Middle Miocene ~ 18-15 m.y.
    Location:
  • Randle Cliffs, Calvert Co., MD
    Size:
  • ~ 1 7/8" (47 mm) slant
    Date:
  • July 2003 TRIP
  • This is a nice robust slightly worn mako. The left is the labial view, the right is the lingual view.
    We found this one while snorkeling. View a pic of it when it was found

    Formation:
  • Choptank
    Age:
  • Middle Miocene ~ 18-15 m.y.
    Location:
  • Found Snorkeling. Calvert Co., MD
    Size:
  • ~ 1 13/16" (45mm) slant
    Date:
  • Summer 2002
  • This is a 1 3/4” (slant height) upper lateral mako with a nice tiger striped pattern.

    Click on the pic to see the trip it was found on.

    Formation:
  • Calvert
    Age:
  • Early - Middle Miocene ~ 18-15 m.y.
    Location:
  • Chesapeake Bay area
    Size:
  • ~ 1 3/4" (44mm) slant
    Date:
  • November 2006 TRIP
  • This is an interesting yellow/orange mako. It ahs a weird hook, similar to the I. planus teeth of the Pacific.

    Formation:
  • Calvert, Plum Point member
    Age:
  • Early - Middle Miocene ~ 18-15 m.y.
    Location:
  • Randle Cliffs, Calvert Co., MD
    Size:
  • ~ 1 5/8" (40mm) slant
    Date:
  • Spring 2002



  • Cosmopolitodus xiphodon aka Isurus hastalis broad-form
    Extinct Giant White Shark

    Click to view the fossil as found
    This is a perfect large specimen!

    Click on the image to see it as found.

    Formation:
  • Yorktown
    Age:
  • Roughly 2.5 - 5 m.y.
    Location:
  • PCS Mine, Aurora, NC
    Size:
  • 2 3/4" (70mm) slant
    Date:
  • March 2008 TRIP
  • Click to view the fossil as found
    This is a beauty. The enameloid shoulders are slightly chipped, but the blade is razor sharp!

    Click on the image to see it as found.

    Formation:
  • Yorktown
    Age:
  • Roughly 2.5 - 5 m.y.
    Location:
  • PCS Mine, Aurora, NC
    Size:
  • 2 3/8" (60mm) slant
    Date:
  • March 2003
  • Here is a upper tooth from a diving trip in the Low Country

    Click on the pic to see the trip it was found on.

    Formation:
  • ? Formation
    Age:
  • ?
    Location:
  • Colleton County, South Carolina
    Size:
  • ~ 2 1/4" (57mm) slant
    Date:
  • August 2003 TRIP
  • This is nice lower mako tooth.

    Click on the pic to see the trip it was found on.

    Formation:
  • Calvert or Choptank
    Age:
  • Early - Middle Miocene ~ 18-15 m.y.
    Location:
  • Chesapeake Bay area
    Size:
  • ~ 2 1/16" (52mm) slant
    Date:
  • June 2007 TRIP
  • Click to view the fossil as found
    Here are two that have a slant height of slightly over 2"

    Click on the pic to see them when found.

    Formation:
  • Yorktown
    Age:
  • Roughly 2.5 - 5 m.y.
    Location:
  • PCS Mine, Aurora, NC
    Size:
  • 2 1/16" (52mm) slant
    Date:
  • March 2006 TRIP
  • This is a beautiful 2" lower mako tooth.

    Click on the pic to see the trip it was found on.

    Formation:
  • Calvert or Choptank
    Age:
  • Early - Middle Miocene ~ 18-15 m.y.
    Location:
  • Chesapeake Bay area
    Size:
  • ~ 2" (51mm) slant
    Date:
  • November 2006 TRIP
  • Click to view the fossil as found
    Here are two I. xiphodons found in Yorktown sediments about 10 feet from one another.

    Click on the image to see one as found.
    Formation:
  • Yorktown
    Age:
  • Roughly 2.5 - 5 m.y.
    Location:
  • PCS Mine, Aurora, NC
    Size:
  • ~ 2" slant (51mm)
    Date:
  • Sept 2005 TRIP
  • Here are some additional upper and lower teeth.

    Formation:
  • Yorktown (Black one was found mixed in with Pungo tailings)
    Age:
  • Roughly 2.5 - 5 m.y.
    Location:
  • PCS Mine, Aurora, NC
    Size:
  • Largest is 2 5/16" slant (58mm)
    Date:
  • Largest one was found on the September 2008 TRIP



  • Carcharodon carcharias (Linnaeus, 1758)
    Great White Shark

    This is the modern great white shark.
    This is a broken Great White found in a drainage ditch in South Carolina.

    Formation:
  • ?Chandler Bridge Formation
    Age:
  • Pliocene
    Location:
  • Berkeley County, S.C.
    Size:
  • 2 1/8"(54mm)
    Date:
    Aug. 2006 TRIP
  • Great Whites are difficult to find. They are regularly found in the James City Formation. However, the roots of Great Whites are thin and fragile. Because of this, the roots are often broken when found. This is an upper tooth.

    Formation:
  • ?James City
    Age:
  • Probably Pliocene or Pleistocene
    Location:
  • PCS Mine, Aurora, NC
    Size:
  • 1.75" (44mm)
  • This is a small lower Great White tooth.

    Formation:
  • Reworked from ?
    Age:
  • Probably Pliocene or Pleistocene
    Location:
  • Green's Mill Run, NC
    Size:
  • 1 3/16" (30mm)
    Date
    Oct. 2006 TRIP






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