It is a very rare fossil. You would think it’s a mix of a shark and a stingray. They discovered it in Mexico and an international team of paleontologists are studying it. It is the winged shark of the Cretaceous Period.
The discovery sheds light on the morphological diversity of the sharks of that time. The team is led by the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and publishes its results in the journal Science.
93 million years ago, strange winged sharks swam in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This newly described fossil species is called “Aquilolamna milarcae”. It enables its explorers to start a new family. Like stingrays, these “eagle sharks” are characterized by extremely long and thin pectoral fins that are reminiscent of wings. The sample examined was 1.65 meters long and 1.90 meters wide.
The ‘Aquilolamna milarcae’ had a caudal fin with a well-developed upper lobe. This is typical of most pelagic sharks like the whale shark and the tiger shark. Due to its anatomical properties, it has a chimeric effect, combining sharks and rays.
With its large mouth and supposedly very small teeth, it must have been feeding on plankton. This is what the international team, led by Romain Vullo, derives from the CNRS.
In the Cretaceous there was only one category of large plankton eater. It was a group of large bony fish (Pachycormidae) that is now extinct. Thanks to this discovery, they now know that a second group existed. Eagle sharks have also swam in these oceans, according to a CNRS statement.
The full specimen was found in Vallecillo (Mexico) in 2012. The city produces remarkably preserved fossils. This site is already famous for its many fossils of ammonites, bony fish and other marine reptiles. It is very useful for documenting the evolution of marine animals such as the white winged shark.
The finding tells us another chapter in the evolutionary history of sharks, these terrible and fascinating animals.