Shark Week Profiles: Whorl Shark
Species: Whorl Shark
Length: 10-15 feet
Distribution: Northwestern United States
Period: Late Carboniferous to Early Jurassic
We’ve gone back in time for our last shark for shark week. Meet the whorl shark. Or maybe not. He might not have looked like the above picture at all.
The only fossil record we have of the Helicoprion is its teeth, seen to the left, which spiral inward unlike any other creature we’ve seen. Because these teeth are so unusual, scientists have had a hard time figuring out where they go. Originally, it was thought to be part of the upper jaw, and later the lower.
The tooth whorl represents all the teeth the shark will produce in its lifetime. Just like sharks today, when a tooth is lost, it’s believed that in the whorl shark, the next tooth in the spiral scoots up to replace it.
Badass as the whorl shark looks in the above picture, these days scientists believe it looked more like the picture below. In this shark, the tooth whorl is placed in the middle of its mouth, farther back, and might have been used to masticate softer prey.