An Alaska Fossil of the Ancient Buzz Saw Shark, Lost for 29 Years, Goes on Display at the Alaska SeaLife Center
Courtesy Alaska SeaLife Center
Alaska Dispatch News
May 21, 2015
In 1986, Richard Glenn, a 23-year-old geology student from Barrow, spotted an odd shape in a foot-long chunk of rock near Atigun Gorge. It consisted of a series of points arranged in a spiral, like the shell of a snail.
“I don’t have much of a background in paleontology,” Glenn told this year’s meeting of the Geological Society of America in Anchorage on May 13. “I’d never seen anything like it. I didn’t know what it was. So I left it there.”
It made sense at the time. Glenn’s project involved mapping the convoluted “jelly roll” of geological formations in the Brooks Range. Fossils were part of the evidence he took under consideration, but they were not very helpful when found out of place. This thing, whatever it was, had dropped from its original location onto a steep scree slope of mixed rock.
The next day his adviser, Gil Mull, arrived from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and, hearing about the fossil, suggested they take another look.
That wasn’t easy, Glenn said. Every bit of rubble on a scree slope looks pretty much like every other bit of rubble. “But we went back and spent the day kicking rocks over.”
They found it and brought it back to camp. Mull didn’t know what it was either. He forwarded the rock to the Smithsonian Institution, where it was identified as the teeth of a Helicoprion, an extinct predatory fish that lived about 280 million years ago.