This week we highlight another gift to the Wooster Geology Department from George Chambers (’79). Among the many fossils that arrived in three delightful boxes were these shark teeth. They are from the extinct Mackerel Shark Otodus obliquus Agassiz, 1843. They were collected from the Eocene of the Khouribga Plateau in Morocco.
These shark teeth are rather common, although they are not often available in such fine preservation as these. What intrigues me is how they are collected and placed on the market. The Khouribga Plateau, west of the Middle Atlas Mountains, has some of the largest phosphate deposits in the world. These phosphorites (phosphate-bearing rocks) are mined in open pits by dynamite. After a blast, local commercial collectors rush in to gather fossils in the rubble before large processing machines arrive to process the ore. That can be a matter of minutes. They find many, many fossils in this phosphatic debris, mostly of reptiles and fish.
The lamnoid shark Otodus obliquus, a reconstruction of which is above, was a very large animal with some teeth over 10 centimeters in length. It may have been up to 9 meters long. Otodus obliquus was a “macro-predator”, meaning it was at the top of the food chain with a likely diet of marine mammals, fish, and other sharks. Its remains are found throughout the world in Paleocene and Eocene sediments. The fossil evidence suggests that this shark is an ancestor of the massive Carcharocles (“Megalodon”).
Thank you again, George, for these beautiful fossils!
Agassiz, L. 1843. Recherches Sur Les Poissons Fossiles. Tome III (livr. 15-16). Imprimérie de Petitpierre, Neuchatel, p. 157-390.
Arambourg C. 1952. Les vertébrés fossiles des gisements de phosphates (Maroc-Algérie-Tunisie). Notes et Mémoires du Service Géologique du Maroc (Rabat) 92: 1-372.
MacFadden, B.J., Labs-Hochstein, J., Quitmyer, I. and Jones, D.S. 2004. Incremental growth and diagenesis of skeletal parts of the lamnoid shark Otodus obliquus from the early Eocene (Ypres) of Morocco. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 206: 179- 192.