The skeleton of a fearsome seven-foot long armoured shark that stalked the English coastline 150 millions years ago has been unearthed.
The remains, believed to be a new species, were dug up on Dorset’s Jurassic coast, where an analysis of its teeth reveal the huge beast was the ‘Jaws’ of its day.
Named durnonovvariaodus maiseri, it was covered in extra strong scales – which would have made it a deadly predator.
The country’s only natural World Heritage site has provided a treasure trove of prehistoric fossils.
They include incredible sea monsters – and even a unique dinosaur called Scelidosaurus.
And now Durnonovariaodus can be added to the Jurassic Coast roll of honour after the fossil was found in what was once the site of a shallow sub-tropical sea.
The Late Jurassic period predator’s powerful jaws were packed with more than 80-inch long serrated teeth.
The shark belonged to an extinct group called hybodontiforms – close relatives of modern sharks and rays.
They swam the oceans for almost 300 million years – before being wiped out by the asteroid strike that killed off the dinosaurs.
Hybodontiforms had two dorsal fins – each supported by a prominent spine. Some were only a few inches long.
Durnonovariaodus was a comparative giant.
Lead author Dr Sebastian Stumpf, of Vienna University, said: “It represents an important source of information for better understanding the diversity of sharks in the past.
“It also provides new interpretations for the evolution of hybodontiform sharks whose relationships are still poorly understood – even after more than 150 years of research.”
The specimen is housed in the Kimmeridge Museum – near where it died. Although it was dug up 20 years ago, it has only just begun to yield its secrets.
Additional parts will be investigated in the years to come. They include a dorsal fin spine, the pelvic girdle, numerous fragments of cartilage and countless scales – as strong as teeth.
Known as dermal denticles, they decrease drag and turbulence – allowing the shark to swim faster and more quietly.
Sharks and rays are one of the most successful vertebrate groups still alive today.
Due to their lifelong replacement, the teeth are among the most common fossil finds.
Their skeletons are made of cartilage which, unlike bone, rarely survives fossilisation – making the discovery in Dorset particularly rare.
Durnonovariaodus, described in PeerJ, differs from all other known hybodontiforms – including those with similarly shaped teeth.