But after reevaluating fossils from 24 individuals, including latex "peels" of Bandringa's scale-covered skin, Sallan and Coates concluded that Bandringa was a single species that lived, at various times during its life, in fresh, brackish and salt water.
The physical differences between the two purported species were due to different preservation processes at marine and freshwater locations, Sallan and Coates concluded. The freshwater sites tended to preserve bones and cartilage, while the marine sites preserved soft tissue.
By combining the complementary data sets from both types of fossil sites and reclassifying Bandringa as a single species, Sallan and Coates gained a far more complete picture of the extinct shark's anatomy and discovered several previously unreported features. They include downward-directed jaws ideal for suction-feeding off the bottom, needle-like spines on the head and cheeks, and a complex array of sensory organs (electroreceptors and mechanoreceptors) on both the extended snout and body, suited for detecting prey in murky water.
Adult Bandringa sharks lived exclusively in freshwater swamps and rivers, according to Sallan and Coates. Females apparently traveled downstream to a tropical coastline to lay their eggs in shallow marine waters, a reverse version of the modern-day salmon's sea-to-stream migration. At the time, the coastline of the super-continent Pangaea ran diagonally between the Mazon Creek freshwater and marine sites.
All the Bandringa fossils from the Mazon Creek marine sites are juveniles, and they were found alongside egg casesprotective capsules that enclose eggs of the next generationbelonging to an early species of shark. Adult Bandringa fossils have been found only at freshwater locations, including several in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Sallan and Coates said that the juvenile Bandringa sharks hatched from the
|Contact: Jim Erickson|
University of Michigan