"Celebrating the Richness of Paleontology through Fossil Hunting"

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Tentative life reconstruction of the hybodontiform shark Asteracanthus; for scale see silhouettes at the right lower corner - Credit Sebastian Stumpf and Fabrizio De Rossi

Asteracanthus Illustration

by Sebastian Stumpf, Fabrizio De Rossi

Paleontology News

Tentative life reconstruction of the hybodontiform shark Asteracanthus; for scale see silhouettes at the right lower corner - Credit Sebastian Stumpf and Fabrizio De Rossi

Tentative life reconstruction of the hybodontiform shark Asteracanthus; for scale see silhouettes at the right lower corner. Image Credit: Sebastian Stumpf and Fabrizio De Rossi

Well-preserved Jurassic shark was among the largest of its time

Summary Points

Figure 1 from Stumpf et al, 2021 showing Asteracanthus ornatissimus specimen: PBP-SOL-8003 from the Solnhofen limestones of Germany. (CC by 4.0)

The shark called Asteracanthus ornatissimus is a nearly complete specimen of a type of hybodont shark.

It was found in the world famous Solnofen limestone beds in Bavaria where Archeopterys was discovered.

At 2.5 meters, it is the largest shark yet discovered from the limestone beds and one of the largest sharks of the Jurassic.

A well-preserved Asteracanthus shark from the famous Solnhofen limestone was among the largest sharks of its time.

This article is based on a Press Release by the University of Vienna (Universitat Wien) - Jan. 14, 2021, and the related Journal Article (Stumpf et al, 2021).

An international team of paleontologists led by Sebastian Stumpf at the University of Vienna discovered a nearly complete hybodont shark from the Upper Jurassic Solnofen limestone beds in Bavaria. The world famous Solnofen limestone is the location where the feathered bird-like dinosaur Archeopteryx was first discovered.

This 150-million-year-old fossil shark is exceptionally rare because it is the most complete and largest shark yet discovered in these limestone beds. The fossil is from a shark called Asteracanthus ornatissimus and its skeleton measures 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) in length. While smaller than today's Great Whites, it was one of the largest sharks of the Jurassic.

Hybodont sharks are best known for their large fin spines. They appeared in the Devonian around 361 million years ago and went extinct with the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous 66 million years ago. This new specimen provides many insights into this group of sharks.

The jaws are exceptionally well preserved and contain more than 150 teeth. Sebastian Stumpf says "This type of dentition indicates that Asteracanthus was a hunter who had a wide range of food. It was certainly not only one of the largest cartilaginous fish of its time, but also one of the most impressive."

Figure 2 from Stumpf et al, 2021 showing a closeup of the teeth and jaws of Asteracanthus ornatissimus specimen: PBP-SOL-8003. (CC by 4.0)

Figure 6 from Stumpf et al, 2021 This figure shows sample fin spines (A-F and N-U) and cephalic spines (I-M) more commonly found. These are from the Oxford Clay in the UK. (CC by 4.0)

Journal Article:
Stumpf Sebastian, Lopez-Romero Faviel A, Kindlimann Rene, Lacombat Frederic, Pohl Burkhard & Kriwet Jurgen. (2020) A unique hybodontiform skeleton provides novel insights into Mesozoic chondrichthyan life. Papers in Palaeontology. published online January 13, 2021. DOI: 10.1002/spp2.1350

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