Blogs & Videos: Sharks

Four Fossil Sharks That Are Cooler Than Megalodon

Megalodon is the T. rex of the prehistoric shark world—it might have looked like a Great White, only way, way bigger, and it’s everybody’s favorite. It’s had its moment in the sun, even starring in a fake Shark Week documentary saying that it’d been found in modern waters (don’t worry—megalodon has been extinct for millions of years). But The Field Museum is home to some really bizarre sharks that lived millions of years before dinosaurs were even a twinkle in the universe’s eye.

Graphic of a shark pointing to different physical characteristics

What Makes a Shark a Shark?

Sharks seem to have it all figured out, evolution-wise. Fossils of prehistoric sharks go all the way back to 450 million years ago, and sharks like the ones we know today emerged about 200 million years ago. This means that they survived the mass extinction that took out the dinosaurs and lived long before early human ancestors evolved less than two million years ago. So, what makes a shark a shark? Here are just a few of its unique physical features:

Sharks and Soup

From the salt-cured fish eggs of caviar to snails roasted in garlic, the human race has come up with many strange delicacies, some of which are offered locally.  In fact, Chicago’s Chinatown is famous for offering products derived from dried shark fins, such as shark fin soup – a broth delicacy containing fibers of cartilage from shark fins.  Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding shark fin soup has little to do with its texture – several of the shark species from which the fins come are endangered or vulnerable, raising questions about their conservation.

Shark Sense

Scientists are finding that some animals have a sense of where they came from – a homing device of sorts – and often return to their birthplace later in life.  You may be familiar with this behavior in salmon; the migration of salmon from the ocean to their freshwater spawning habitat is one of the most extreme in the animal kingdom!  This behavior is termed “natal philopatry”, which refers to animals returning to their own birthplace to give birth to their young.  In the marine world, natal philopatry has been documented in salmon, seals, and some sea turtles; but for the first time, the phenomenon has been recognized in lemon sharks. 

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