Bearsden Shark is officially named
The Bearsden Shark, the fossil wonder of the Hunterian Museum's collections, has finally got an official name - Akmonistion zangerli. The Bearsden Shark is the best preserved fossil shark of its time in the world. From the tip of its nose to the end of its tail, its fragile cartilage skeleton is almost intact after 330 million years locked in the black shales of Bearsden. Even the partly digested remains of its last fish supper lie undisturbed still within the bowels of this one metre long fossil.
The fossil shark, first excavated by Scottish fossil collector Stan Wood in 1981, has been studied in microscopic detail and compared with other fossil shark remains from around the world. Although it was first identified as being a variety of Stethacanthus, it has now been shown to be an entirely new genus and species.
All newly discovered types of animal, whether fossil or living, are given a scientific name to show that it is different from all other animals. Twenty years after its discovery, the shark has been fully described in a recent article in the Journal of Palaeontology (vol 21, pp 438-459) by Professor Mike Coates, of the University of Chicago and his colleague Ms Sandy Sequeira, of Birkbeck College, London.
Dr Neil Clark, Curator of Palaeontology at the Hunterian Museum, also worked on the fossils from Bearsden and is not surprised that the shark is so well preserved: "330 million years ago there was a brackish water lagoon extending at least from Dalry to Milton of Campsie and south to East Kilbride. The fossils are so exceptionally well preserved that I have even found the remains of muscles and blood vessels preserved in some. The shark, along with other animals, must have become buried in thick soupy oxygen-deficient black mud rapidly, preventing scavengers from destroying these unique fossils.
"Although the fossil has been given a new name, I am sure it will continue to be affectionately called the 'Bearsden Shark'." ________________________________________________
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* High resolution photographs are available at: http://www.gla.ac.uk/press/photos/shark.html
* Dr Mike Coates (University of Chicago) can be contacted by email: email@example.com
* Ms Sandy Sequeira (Birkbeck College, London) can be contacted by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
* Information on the naming of the shark is available on request from Neil Clark or the University Press Office on 0141 330 3535
* The Hunterian Museum, where the shark is on display, is open from 9.30am-5pm from Monday-Saturday
First published: 9 November 2001