The tiny teeth - each measuring less than a millimetre across - were discovered in the sediment left behind when palaeontologists at the Field Museum in Chicago uncovered the bones of "Sue", now the most complete T. rex specimen ever described.
One of its most striking features also gave the species its name: this shark's tiny teeth resemble alien spaceships from the 1980s video game Galaga. It wasn't very big, measuring around 12 to 18 inches in length, and it likely scoured the riverbed in search of small fish, snails, and crayfish, according to new research published today in the Journal of Paleontology. "Today, carpet sharks, which include bamboo sharks and wobbegongs, mostly live in the waters in southeast Asia and Australia, so it's surprising to find their fossils at the Sue locality", study co-author Eric Gorscak said in a statement.
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When Field Museum scientists removed the rock surrounding SUE's bones in the 1990s, they kept the leftover sediment (called matrix).
Gates describes the teeth as being the size of a sand grain. "Teeth are usually good indicators of diet for obvious reasons. Without a microscope you'd just throw them away".
Gates sifted through the material (almost two tons of it) with the help of volunteer Karen Nordquist, whom the species name of nordquistae, honors.
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Galagadon's teeth are less than a millimetre across, so they could've been easily overlooked. Her colleagues appreciated the comparison, and they chose to name the shark after the classic video game and Nordquist herself. The discovery of a freshwater shark in this part of the world, however, is challenging conventional thinking about the environment in South Dakota at the time.
Sharks have thrived for millions of years.
"Galagadon nordquistae was not swooping in to prey on T. rex, Triceratops, or any other dinosaurs that happened into its streams". South Dakota was very different 67 million years ago, with sprawling forests, deep swamps, and winding rivers, says Gates. "Every species in an ecosystem plays a supporting role, keeping the whole network together", says Terry Gates, lecturer at North Carolina State University and a research affiliate with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and lead author of the paper describing the shark.
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SUE the T. rex, at the Field Museum in Chicago, is the largest, most complete, and best preserved T. Rex ever discovered.