Prehistoric Find on Norfanz Survey
20 May 2003
Scientists exploring previously uncharted deep-sea areas of the Norfolk Ridge, north of New Zealand, have found a huge tooth that once belonged to an extinct giant marine predator, the ancient white shark Procarcharodon megalodon.
The NORFANZ research voyage is exploring deep-sea marine habitats in the Tasman Sea, and is jointly funded by Australia's National Oceans Office and the New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries.
The voyage is using NIWA's deep-sea research vessel, RV Tangaroa, to photograph and video the seafloor at depths between 200 and 1,200 metres and to collect samples and specimens.
"We were sampling marine life on a sloping rocky seabed more than one kilometre deep," CSIRO scientist Alan Williams noted in the RV Tangaroa's daily journal.
"When the sampling sled was landed on deck, scientists recovered a rare find. It was a huge tooth that once belonged to a giant marine predator, the monstrous, ancient white shark Procarcharodon megalodon.
"This species lived about 30-40 million years ago and is now extinct. It was related to the ancestors of the great white shark that roams our oceans today, but was many times larger.
"In certain conditions, the hard parts of dead marine animals may become fossils on the seafloor. These are usually only collected by luck when scientific sampling equipment happens to be in the right place, which is what happened off Norfolk Island."
Photo: CSIRO scientist Alan Williams with a fossilised giant shark's tooth discovered on the seabed at 1000-1100 m depth
The main aim of the four-week NORFANZ research is to provide information on the composition, nature, and potential vulnerability of unique and unexplored deep sea habitats.
The results will give scientists a much better understanding of the species living on the deep seamounts and ridges throughout the Tasman Sea. This information will then be used to help protect and manage these ecosystems.
At least four species not seen in the region before have already been recorded during the survey, and scientists are confident there will be many more exciting discoveries.
The findings of this expedition, including a daily diary and photo library, are posted daily on the NORFANZ website www.oceans.gov.au/norfanz.
For further information and pictures please contact
Sarah Morton, Communications Specialist, Ministry of Fisheries
Telephone 04 494 2370
Katrina Haig, Public Affairs Officer, National Oceans Office
Telephone 0061 3 6221 5036