Fossilized tooth reveals prehistoric shark attack on seal

Artist's impression of the possible encounter between shark and seal. (Image: Clarance Schumaker)

Palaeontologists have uncovered a fossilized tooth from a white shark embedded in the heel bone of a seal, shedding light on a dramatic event that unfolded 4.5 million years ago in the seas around what is now Florida. A team of experts, including one of our own palaeontologists, contributed to the detailed description of this ancient scene.

The positioning of the tooth within the seal's hind flipper strongly suggests a high-stakes pursuit, hinting at the possibility of active predation. Unfortunately, the evidence indicates that the seal did not survive the encounter, as there is a noticeable absence of healing around the embedded shark tooth.

This remarkable find not only provides a rare glimpse into the dynamics of prehistoric marine life but also underscores the enduring nature of the predator-prey relationship between white sharks and seals. Today, white sharks continue to exhibit similar hunting behavior, and this discovery offers valuable insights into a practice that has persisted for millions of years. The fossilized tooth serves as a poignant testament to the ancient dance between predator and prey that has played out in the oceans throughout the ages.

The study is published in the journal Comptes Rendus Palevol.


Heel bone of a phocid with embedded Carcharodon carcharias tooth.
Shark tooth in detail.