An Australian fossil enthusiast made an incredible discovery while combing a Victoria beach known to harbor ancient secrets.
Peaking out from a boulder, Phillip Mullaly spotted what turned out to be a part of the fossilized chomper from species of "megatooth" shark believed to have been twice the size of a great white when it plied the seas some 25 million years ago.
“I was walking along the beach looking for fossils, turned and saw this shining glint in a boulder and saw a quarter of the tooth exposed," Mullaly told the Melbourne Museum. "I was immediately excited, it was just perfect and I knew it was an important find that needed to be shared with people."
More than just one tooth, Mullaly had found a remarkably preserved set of nearly 3-inch teeth believed to belong to a massive species that scientists call the Great Jagged Narrow-Toothed Shark.
The find is evidence the hulking fish lived in the seas off Victoria, where it's believed to have been the top predator that made a supper out of small whales.
Eager to share his find, Mullaly contacted Dr Erich Fitzgerald with Museums Victoria with an offer to donate the teeth to museum's collection.
In a statement, Fitzgerald said the offer has been graciously accepted.
“These teeth are of international significance, as they represent one of just three associated groupings of Carcharocles angustidens teeth in the world, and the very first set to ever be discovered in Australia," Fitzgerald said. "By donating his discovery to Museums Victoria, Phil has ensured that these unique fossils are available for scientific research and education both now and for generations to come."
Because nearly all fossils of sharks worldwide are just single teeth, it is extremely rare to find multiple associated teeth from the same shark.
When scientists realized all of Mullaly's teeth were from the same shark, they had him lead a team back to where he found them in the hopes of finding more.
And they hit pay dirt.
All told, 45 teeth from the same Carcharocles angustidens were uncovered. Thanks to Mullaly, visitors to Melbourne Museum will get a chance to gaze into the distant past when the teeth go on display now through Oct. 7.