The constant movement of the continent not only creates mountain ranges but also has a great impact on the wildlife in the seas. When the supercontinents Eurasia and Gondwana began to collide near the equator between the land masses, a tropical coastal belt was formed.
These were the habitats of the oldest sharks in Austria, and their geological remains are found today in the Carnic Alps. A scientific study by the Natural History Museum in Vienna led to the discovery of how climate change affected prehistoric sharks.
325 million years ago, prehistoric sharks swam in the Carinthian Sea. Fossil collectors found the teeth of the oldest sharks in Austria between 1989 and 2015. The found remains were donated to the Natural History Museum in Vienna and the Provincial Museum in Klagenfurt for a new scientific study.
Thanks to computed tomography, a research team led by Iris Feichtinger from the Natural History Museum in Vienna was able to take pictures of the teeth that were still in the rock. This provided insight into the nervous system inside the tooth. One of the teeth found belonged to an unknown species of shark that researchers named “Cladodus gailensis” after the area of the invention.
The Carboniferous period, which began about 360 million years ago, was characterized by drastic climate change. Ice caps were constantly forming on the poles, and the sea level was dropping dramatically. Just before the first major glaciation, climate change led to the mass extinction of prehistoric sharks. After a short phase of recovery, another wave of extinction followed. The melting of the ice after the peak in the period of freezing caused the creation of new habitats that were inhabited by freshwater sharks.
The research team included experts from the Natural History Museum in Vienna, the Provincial Museum in Klagenfurt and the Universities of Vienna and St. Petersburg.