Phonetic: Car-kah-ro-don hub-bel-li.
Named By: D. J. Ehret, B. J. MacFadden, D. S. Jones, T. J. DeVries, D. A. Foster & R. Salas-Gismondi. 2012.
Classification: Chordata, Chondrichthyes, Elasmobranchii, Lamniformes, Lamnidae, Carcharodon.
Species: C. hubbelli.
Known locations: Peru - Piscoe Formation.
Time period: Messinian of the Miocene.
Fossil representation: Complete set of jaws including 222 teeth. 45 vertebrae.
discovered by a Peruvian farmer in 1988, the holotype remains of
Carcharodon hubbelli were subsequently acquired by a
Gordon Hubbel. Over twenty years later in December 2009, Hubbel
donated the remains to the University of Florida. An initial
description of the remains was subsequently written up, but the
problem with this study was that the age estimate of the Piscoe
Formation from where the remains were recovered was questionable.
Using maps drawn up by Hubbel, a research team located the site of
the original discovery in Peru and then by a process of strontium
isotope testing determined the true age of the Piscoe Formation. This
saw the age estimate for the remains change from Pliocene to earlier
Late Miocene in age. In 2012 a more complete study (Ehret et
al) was published formally describing the remains as a new
the Carcharodon genus. The species name C.
was in honour
of the collector and donator of the remains Gordon Hubbel.
As a new species of the Carcharodon genus Carcharodon hubbelli was in essence an extinct relative of the famous modern day great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias. More than this though the teeth of Carcharodon hubbelli are not just similar to those of the great white shark, they are also similar to those of broad toothed mako sharks of the Isurus genus. The transitional form of the teeth of Carcharodon hubbelli therefore seems to suggest that great white shark has its ancestry stemming from mako sharks. It should be realised though that Carcharodon hubbelli is not yet a perfect fit for this lineage. The type remains of Carcharodon hubbelli are late Miocene in age, roughly just over five to seven million years old. Great white shark fossils by contrast are known to go back to the mid Miocene some sixteen million years ago. However this observation in itself does not detract from the significance of the discovery, since the first individual Carcharodon hubbelli known to us may have been from a late surviving population. After all it is quite common for some overlap, even by millions of years to exist amongst related forms.
If the interpretation of Carcharodon hubbelli is correct and the great white sharks evolved from makos, then this would effectively clear up one of the biggest debates in shark palaeontology which has lasted for some one hundred and fifty years. This is the idea that the modern day great white shark was descended from the infamous ‘megatoothed sharks’, such as the monstrous C. megalodon. For a long time the megatoothed sharks were included within the Carcharodon genus but a few other researchers kept on pointing out key differences between the shape and form of the megatoothed shark teeth, and those of the great white. Eventually these researchers established a new genus name, Carcharocles, to house megatoothed shark species, including C. megalodon, C. angustidens, C. chubutensis and C. auriculatus. Others however kept on insisting that the original interpretation of the megatoothed sharks should be within Carcharodon, and so decades of debate and confusion as both genera were used ensued. We are however fairly certain that mako sharks were separate from the megatoothed sharks, and if a lineage between makos and the modern great whites can be firmly established, then this would actually validate the Carcharocles genus and the inclusion of megatoothed sharks within in it.
Carcharodon hubbelli is known by fairly well preserved complete remains including teeth and vertebrae. This is significant in itself because ninety-nine per cent of the time, fossil sharks are only represented by teeth. Vertebrae are occasionally found since the cartilage that originally makes them up is usually more ossified and therefore more likely to survive until fossilisation. Even rarer than this are soft tissue preservations such as impressions upon the rocks surrounding teeth and vertebrae.
- Origin of the white shark Carcharodon (Lamniformes: Lamnidae) based on recalibration of the upper Neogene Pisco Formation of Peru - Palaeontology 55(6):1139-1153 - D. J. Ehret, B. J. MacFadden, D. S. Jones, T. J. DeVries, D. A. Foster & R. Salas-Gismondi. 2012.