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Hippopotamus and Crocodile Hunt by Peter Paul Rubens, (1616) (Public Domain)

Ancient Sharks and Crocodiles’ Nemesis: Man

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Since ancient times, people have feared sharks and crocodiles. But how long have these two species actually been on earth and how did they evolve? Crocodiles and sharks have one thing in common: the fact that they have remained completely unchanged for hundreds of millions of years of evolution. It is true, roughly speaking, that if a modern human being could have taken a swim in a river or in the open ocean, 150 million years ago, he would immediately have recognized that animal as a crocodile or as a shark, but there are many substantial differences in their habitat, diet, morphology, size and weight among the various genera which have marked the evolutionary history of these creatures.

Carcharocles megalodon collection from the Gatun Formation (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Carcharocles megalodon collection from the Gatun Formation ( CC BY-SA 2.5 )

Sharks Oldest Creatures On The Planet

Sharks are considered among the oldest creatures that have ever lived on this planet. The fossil remains of these animals are about three times older than those of dinosaurs, and almost a hundred times more archaic than the entire evolutionary path followed by the genus Homo itself. The family tree of the Chondrichthyes stands proudly in the long path of natural history for a time span of about 400 million years. Primitive forms of sharks swam sinuously in rivers and early oceans, even before the insects took flight and even long before the plants had actually colonized all the continents.

The origin of sharks is even more obscure than that of most other groups of animals, for they have left very little evidence of their existence. Cartilage does not preserve as fossil as a rule, so most of the evidence of the ancient shark-like fish rests upon their teeth.

Mitsukurina owstoni. A new goblin shark, Scapanorhynchus jordani, from Japan. (Public Domain)

Mitsukurina owstoni. A new goblin shark, Scapanorhynchus jordani, from Japan. ( Public Domain )

Who Were The Sharks?

The seas of 500 million years ago were certainly different from modern ones, even in their chemistry. In the Silurian period, some 450 million years ago, the first shark-like creatures appeared. This kind of fish were the spiny sharks, they were not true sharks at all. These animals differed from the early jawless fish in having jaws and bone set in the skin of the gill openings and the ‘shoulder’ area. Their skeletons comprise of cartilage (bone has not grown into the cartilage, as in the higher vertebrates).

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 Aaronne Colagrossi obtained a degree in Geological Sciences from the University of Molise with a thesis in geological survey and paleontology. His first novel, entitled Megalodon the perfect predator (2012), was inspired by the immense amount of data concerning the fossil sharks of central Italy.

Top Image : Hippopotamus and Crocodile Hunt by Peter Paul Rubens, (1616) ( Public Domain )

By Aaronne Colagrossi

Comments

Hello Mr. Colagrossi,

That Painting up above is pretty scary, it is quite possible in the Ancient World; that those Crocs and sharks might have been a lot bigger so the Ancient World, would have a good reason to be afraid. The Romans one of the many Great Civilizations told sea stories about giant Super Sharks when sailing on the sea.

Let's not forget their Naval Battles the consequence of those
actions taken by The Roman soldiers lunch for the sharks.

Question have you ever heard of The Morrocan Elephant?

It seems during Rome's many colosseum, sport arenas, those elephants went exctinct. I'd blame the Romans for the
Extinction of certain Crocodile species. On the other hand if crocodiles were lunching on people then I guess that Species would go extinct. Not sure how the sharks fit on though their lot was living in the ocean.

Great Article hope to read more. Goodbye!

I know crocs have changed over the years. I've seen pictures of fossils from now extinct giant crocodiles even larger than giant crocodiles found today.

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