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310 Million Year Old Bandringa Shark Nursery Discovered In Illinois

Fossils of Bandringa shark found in Illinois deemed to be from ancient shark nursery

  • Fossils of Bandringa shark species discovered in 1969 were originally thought to be different species than those found later

  • Illinois was once coastline, and nursery for Bandringa shark species

bandringa shark

Painting depicts what Bandringa shark may have looked like
Image by John Megahan

Scientists have discovered evidence of an ancient shark nursery in Illinois that is approximately 310 million years old.  The Bandringa shark nursery existed before the time of dinosaurs.  Bandringa sharks would lay their eggs along the coastline that fell across the American Midwest.

The baby Bandringa shark fossils and egg shells were located in 1969 along the Mazon Creek at the Braidwood Nuclear Generating Station site in northeastern Illinois.  The baby sharks were a mere four to six inches long.  These sharks were thought to belong to a species of mini-sharks called Bandringa rayi.  These Bandringa sharks are the earliest close relatives of modern sharks.

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Ten years later, additional juvenile fossils were located in a different area of the Mazon Creek.  An adult specimen was found later that year in Pennsylvania, and another in Ohio a few years later.

These different sets of Bandringa shark fossils were originally thought to be those of two different species, dubbed Bandringa rayi, and Bandringa herdinae, however are now determined to be the same.

“When you account for the different preservation modes, there is nothing that distinguishes them at all,” states University of Michigan paleontologist Lauren Sallan.

A paper published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology dates these Bandringa shark fossils at approximately 310 million years old.

“At least a dozen juvenile Bandringa shark fossils — and probably more — have been recovered from the site,” states Lauren Sallan, “We even have soft body tissue from the juvenile sharks.”

“Bandringa had a head entirely covered in large spines, a long paddle-like rostrum (snout) with electroreceptors, and one of the earliest jaws capable of protruding and suction feeding,” states Lauren Sallan.

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