Prehistoric Shark

Squalicorax sp. Cretaceous lamnoid shark.

Dmitry Bogdanov / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

As with many prehistoric sharks, Squalicorax is known today almost exclusively by its fossilized teeth, which tend to endure much better in the fossil record than its easily degraded cartilaginous skeleton. But those teeth--large, sharp and triangular--tell an amazing story: the 15-foot-long, up-to- 1,000-pound Squalicorax had a worldwide distribution during the middle to late Cretaceous period, and this shark seems to have preyed indiscriminately on just about every kind of marine animal, as well as any terrestrial creatures unlucky enough to fall into the water.

Evidence has been adduced of Squalicorax attacking (if not actually eating) the fierce mosasaurs of the late Cretaceous period, as well as turtles and giant-sized prehistoric fish. The most amazing recent discovery is of the foot bone of an unidentified hadrosaur (duck-billed dinosaur) bearing the unmistakable imprint of a Squalicorax tooth. This would be the first direct evidence of a Mesozoic shark preying on dinosaurs, though other genera of the time undoubtedly feasted on duckbills, tyrannosaurs, and raptors that accidentally fell into the water, or whose bodies were washed into the sea after they succumbed to disease or starvation.

Species of Squalicorax

Because this prehistoric shark had such a wide distribution, there are numerous species of Squalicorax, some of which are in better standing than others. The most well-known, S. falcatus, is based on fossil specimens recovered from Kansas, Wyoming and South Dakota (80 million or so years ago, much of North America was covered by the Western Interior Sea). The largest identified species, S. pristodontus, has been recovered as far afield as North America, Western Europe, Africa, and Madagascar, while the earliest known species, S. volgensis, was discovered alongside Russia's Volga River (among other places).

Squalicorax Fast Facts

  • Name: Squalicorax (Greek for "crow shark"); pronounces SKWA-lih-CORE-ax
  • Habitat: Oceans worldwide
  • Historical Period: Middle-Late Cretaceous (105-65 million years ago)
  • Size and Weight: About 15 feet long and 500-1,000 pounds
  • Diet: Marine animals and dinosaurs
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Moderate size; sharp, triangular teeth
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Strauss, Bob. "Squalicorax." ThoughtCo, Sep. 8, 2021, thoughtco.com/history-of-squalicorax-1093703. Strauss, Bob. (2021, September 8). Squalicorax. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-squalicorax-1093703 Strauss, Bob. "Squalicorax." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-squalicorax-1093703 (accessed June 3, 2023).