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150 Year Old Fossil Mystery Solved


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I am excited to share with my friends on The Fossil Forum a significant discovery that I made last week.

In 1870 an unusual spine like structure was described from a Pennsylvanian aged black shale site in Illinois. The fossil was believed to belong to an unknown chondrichthyan (shark) that is unlike anything anyone has ever seen.

For over 150 years, these denticles have shown up in sites around the world. This animal ranges from the Pennsylvanian to the Triassic meaning that it survived the Permian extinction.

Researchers have been perplexed and frustrated as aside from a few patches of scales, no articulated material has ever been found.

Dr Rainer Zangerl spent many years extensively collecting black shale sites in Illinois and Indiana. He claims to have found a specimen in Indiana only to have it disintegrate in front of him.

He described it having had an eel like body covered in the feathery denticles. 

I am pleased to announce that I have found  what appears to be a complete well preserved specimen.

For almost 20 years, I have been searching several black shale sites in North central Illinois. The shale is very similar to the Mecca Quarry black shale found at sites in Indiana.I have posted pictures in the past of various other fossils that I have found at the site. The denticles are relatively abundant but I have never seen any other signs of this mystery shark.

Last week, I made a last minute trip out to a site that I occasionally collect and spent a few hours splitting slabs of shale. I  was not having much luck and getting ready to call it a day. I decided to open one last large slab. I took a whack and it split perfectly.

There in front of me was probably the most scientifically significant fossil that I have ever found.

I knew almost immediately what it was but could not believe what I was looking at.

A small shark like animal with an elongated eel like body and various spines.

The majority of the fossil is covered by a thin layer of black shale so it does not look that impressive. Once prepped, the preservation should be fantastic and similar to other fish that I have shared from these shales..

I am in the process of searching for a researcher who wants to describe it.

The fossil appears to be relatively complete from head to tail.

I will keep this thread updated as things progress.

Without further delay please enjoy being some of the first people to ever see what Listracanthus looked like.

 

 

ACBFC7B4-A049-449D-A4EE-74212DE4B5BC.jpeg

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44F69289-08D7-401C-9491-10A79AB27C4C.jpeg

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A few more pictures

DDF0BD3F-3EDC-4A27-9327-A31349D2D3EC.jpeg

65C4261F-DB02-4556-AAA7-7F0211D741E6.jpeg

87E27931-D029-44EE-B369-CAA0B5859338.jpeg

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Once prepared, the preservation should be similar to this Iniopterygian that I collected at the same site a few years ago.

5BBBF433-7359-45EE-817E-04A710D0755B.jpeg

6BCA0FF4-2815-40A8-9477-FD2851A6DCAD.jpeg

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Fossildude19

Amazing, Rob! :blink: Congratulations! 

 

Thanks so much for showing us! 

Can't wait to see it prepped.   :popcorn:

 

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Amazing find! I'm very excited to see it prepared. Congratulations. 

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:default_faint:

 

Congratulations!  Thanks for letting us be some of the first to see it! I can’t wait to see how this progresses with being prepped and described! 

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DPS Ammonite

Send photos to the John Maisey at the American Museum of Natural History. He is a fossil shark expert and has helped other people ID and publish on their sharks: https://www.amnh.org/research/staff-directory/john-g.-maisey

 

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317832543_A_Pennsylvanian_'supershark'_from_Texas

 

@Carl

@BobWill

@fossilized6s Give us an update on your similar find. Did you get the rest of it? Is Dr. Maisey working on it.

 

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An amazing privilege to see this specimen first, thank you!

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What an achievement, Rob!  Find a qualified, 'hungry' researcher ready to go to work.  ;)  :D

 

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Stunning! Do we ever designate a find as "fossil of the decade"?

Those scales look like they could blow away in the breeze.

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Definitely a thread to watch. Congratulations on your incredible find. I am  looking forward to it been prepared. All the best Bobby 

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My oh my! History in the making! Congratulations!

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Congradulations on the find of a lifetime! :) 
The description kinda reminds of a frilled shark, but even more eel like.
Very cool discorvery! :) 

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Congratulations, a dream fossil. Chondrichthyans get up to some weird stuff!

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Fantastic find!!  :default_faint: I agree Dr Maisey would be a great person to contact.

 

Don

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Congrats, that is a true dream find- to help solve one of the mysteries of modern paleontology! What an amazing opportunity- I eagerly await hearing more about the prep and publication of this long-sought creature. 

 

It's funny, I was just reading @fossilized6s's thread referenced above because I found some Listracanthus denticles over the weekend, and wondering if he had any updates since last year. Perhaps both of your specimens could be studied together to get the best picture? 

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Very cool! I'm happy to help you find someone to work on it if Maisey isn't interested. This is a really cool and important find!

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Thanks everyone for the kind words.

I am scheduled to meet with Michael Coates at The University of Chicago next week. 

I am hoping that we will be able to x-ray the fossil and get a better idea what is preserved.

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I just had to add my congratulations to this wonderful find! I can't wait to see what it looks like prepped. It seems so fragile. You must feel like a million bucks! :)

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:default_faint::default_faint::thumbsu::yay-smiley-1::yay-smiley-1:

 

:popcorn::popcorn:

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