Shark breakthrough: Fossil discovery stuns scientists on creature’s marine evolution

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The newly discovered fossil, 410 millions years old, presents to scientists a groundbreaking question over the evolution of the modern-day shark. Covered in armour, the newest addition to marine historical understanding was discovered by an international team of researchers. It has since been named Minjinia turgenensis.

Scientists have concluded that it belongs to a group of armoured fish called the placoderms.

Through extensive analysis, M. turgenensis is thought to be closely related to the last common ancestor of both sharks and bony fish.

When the team uncovered part of the fossil’s skull, including its brain case, they found it was made entirely of bone.

This suggests that sharks may have first evolved with bone and then somewhere down the evolutionary line lost it again.

This is rather than keeping their initial cartilage state throughout their 400 million years of evolution.

Today, the majority of vertebrates have skeletons made of bone.

Sharks and their relatives, however, have lighter, more flexible skeletons made up of cartilage.

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The conventional narrative surrounding the evolution of sharks maintains that cartilaginous fish evolved first.

Bony fish, like tuna and mackerel, were thought to have evolved later on.

Although the exception was made for sharks, whom scientists believed retained their cartilaginous skeleton.


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“But a lighter skeleton would have helped them be more mobile in the water and swim at different depths.

“This may be what helped sharks to be one of the first global fish species, spreading gout into oceans around the world 400 million years ago.”

The majority of early fish fossils have been uncovered in Australia, America and Europe.

However, as research extends and more of the oceans are explored, fossils in places like China and South America are beginning to pop up.

M. turgenensis was discovered in Mongolia – a surprising location given the country being landlocked.

The fossil itself was discovered in rock formations that have never been searched before.

The team will now sift through additional material they uncovered in the hope of further piecing together the evolution of the shark.

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