Moab History: A Fossil of Two Sharks

Amidst an array of fossils on display at the Museum, a small, inconspicuous gray rock contains teeth from two remarkable predators. While dinosaurs often claim the limelight of local paleontology, Utah’s rocks record many different chapters of Earth’s history in their layers – including intervals of time when the region was covered with shallow seas. During a daylong School to Science job shadow facilitated by Science Moab during April 2024, Grand County High School junior Klayre Humphreys dug into research on a rock specimen containing two shark teeth, each from an extinct shark variety.

Humphreys brought a lot of paleontology interest to the topic. A collector of shark teeth, she had lots of insights to offer and helped Museum staff develop more exhibit text about the paleontological specimen on display.

The rock contains two teeth, from extinct sharks Scapanorhynchus and Squalicorax. Humphreys learned that Scapanorhynchus is an extinct genus of shark that lived from the Early Cretaceous to the Miocene in what is now North America. Its distinctive physical characteristics, such as an elongated snout, are very similar to the modern-day Goblin Shark. Like the Goblin Shark, Scapanorhynchus was thought to be a deep-water fish that did not exceed four meters in length.

Research on the second shark tooth, from Squalicorax, also yielded stories. During the middle to late Cretaceous Period, Squalicorax, commonly known as the Crow Shark, had a worldwide distribution. The Crow Shark grew to about 15 feet (4.5 m) long and weighed 500-1000 pounds.  Squalicorax sharks fed on marine creatures such as fish and turtles. Humphreys found that the fossil records have even hinted to as what the Crow Shark would have also scavenged: dinosaurs. Distinctive Crow Shark bite marks have been found on mosasaurs, a Mesozoic reptile, and Plesiosaur fossil remains. 

Humphreys’ research, completed during her job shadow, will help Moab Museum staff update and enhance exhibit text. The Moab Museum team extends our thanks to Klayre Humphreys for helping research specimens on display.

The Moab Museum is dedicated to sharing stories of the natural and human history of the Moab area. To explore more of Moab’s stories and artifacts, find out about upcoming programs, and become a Member, visit www.moabmuseum.org.

This article originally appeared in the Moab Sun News Moab History column, written weekly by Moab Museum staff.