Northern Arizona Shark Haven?


Say hello to Neosaivodus flagstaffensis, a 6.6 foot shark with ferocious teeth.

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Toothy shark discovery

That’s one of the three species of shark identified by a group of researchers that included Northern Arizona University’s David Elliott, Northern Arizona University (NAU) Professor of Vertebrate Paleontology. Elliott and NAU’s James Wittke, a geologic materials analyst in the School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability, were among four authors of a paper that appeared in the June 2012 issue of Historical Biology: An International Journal of Paleontology, which announced the discovery.

It appears that 270 million years ago, Arizona was under water and home to numerous sharks. The three sharks identified so far from that Middle Permian era were toothy and ate other sharks. In addition to Neosaivodus flagstaffensis, there is the smaller (3.2-foot) Nanoskalme natans and the larger (19.7-foot) Kaibabvenator swiftae. The sharks were discovered at the Kaibab Formation.

 “This work has resulted from collections of teeth made by local collectors,” Elliott said. “We have identified over 30 shark taxa to date. This is only the first of a projected series of papers that will make the Permian Kaibab Formation a global standard for these organisms.”

--Adapted from “Inside NAU” and Jennifer Viegas’s article in “Discovery News” on