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OU Paleontologists Celebrate Discovery Ancient "Jaws"-sized Shark

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Before the finding, a small shark tooth was the only piece of the shark that they had and now the team realizes it was a giant shark. Before the finding, a small shark tooth was the only piece of the shark that they had and now the team realizes it was a giant shark.
NORMAN, Oklahoma -

Paleontologists at the Sam Noble Museum at the University of Oklahoma are excited about the discovery a 100-million-year-old giant shark that was at least 20 feet long, possibly larger.

The discovery was made entirely on accident. Before the finding, a small shark tooth was the only piece of the shark that they had and now the team realizes it was a giant shark.

“Jaws from the movie was 24 feet long so this thing would have been about the same size,” said paleontologist Joseph Frederickson at the Sam Noble Museum.

Frederickson said his team discovered this ancient sea monster by mistake.

“Completely on accident, serendipity,” Frederickson joked.

He was on a paleontology trip to North Texas in 2009 in the Duck Creek Formation, which is known for fossils, when his wife tripped over a boulder and saw the fossil inside. Eventually, the team dug out three large vertebrae that made up the shark's spine.

Years of research later, Frederickson concluded his shark was the same species as a larger one found in 1997 in Kansas called Leptostyrax macrorhiza.

“These two sharks were both very, very large and they lived at about the same time so it's hypothesized that they were probably the same species,” Frederickson explained.

Frederickson said 100 million years ago, Oklahoma and Texas were under a sea that split North America from the Artic to the Gulf of Mexico.

“So these guys would have been living right here in the Oklahoma City area,” he told News 9.

Researchers thought the top predators of the day were giant marine reptiles. Now, they think those reptiles were probably food for the giant shark.

Frederickson said it is exciting to be part of a scientific discovery like this.

“I'm one of the few people who have actually seen a shark this size, I've seen these fossils, and now I get to share it with everybody,” he beamed.

Just like trees have age rings, the vertebrae have age rings and the next step is to study those rings to find out how the giant shark grew up and how old it was when it died.

The fossils will not be on display to the public.

Click here to read the paper Frederickson authored on this giant shark, which was published this week.

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