Among the dangling bats, lively orange lizards and ample cavern crickets that call Mammoth Cave home, the profile of another sort of creature is beginning to develop after an ongoing disclosure.
Around sunset Thursday, with a spotlight tied to his protective cap, Rick Toomey pried open the substantial iron way to a little realized cavern entrance at Mammoth Cave National Park. He drove WDRB News down into the dimness.
“This is the entrance,” said Toomey, the recreation center’s cavern expert and research facilitator. “The cavern is my office.”
In the cool, clammy passage, mined just about a century back and missing any perpetual lighting, Toomey climbed down around eight accounts of stairs before arriving at the cavern floor.
“Welcome to the cave,” he said as he pointed at a nearby wall. “This is where things are happening.”
In the course of recent years, Toomey and an associate began seeing caramel sections installed in the divider. Normally, fossils are beige in shading. These fossils were unique.
Further investigation kept on yielding the strange outcomes: progressively darker fossils. Every one of them gave off an impression of being the relics of now-terminated sharks. Some are roughly sharp. Others are dull and level.
The finds didn’t stun Toomey to an extreme. Kentucky was submerged a huge number of years back, he said.
“Kentucky was the happening place to go scuba diving or snorkeling,” he said with a laugh. “It would’ve been a great place for snorkeling, sharks notwithstanding.”
Yet, at that point, the wayfarers found something significantly increasingly strange. Under a sharp shade on the cavern divider, they found what resembled the jaw of a shark.
Photographs of Toomey’s discoveries were eventually sent up the chain to Maryland, where J.P. Hodnett is a scientist at the Dinosaur Park outside Washington, D.C.
“They were excited because like, ‘Oh wow, these are really cool sharks’ teeth inside of our cave, but what kind of sharks are they?”‘ Hodnett recalled.
Hodnett immediately distinguished the examples. The jaw, he conjectured, had a place with a wiped out shark called Saivadus, which lived 330 million years prior and has since become terminated. Hodnett says very little is thought about that species, which matched the size of an extraordinary white shark.
“If you think of the Jaws movie or the megalodon movie, there’s this fin sticking out of the water cutting across the water on the surface,” he said. “Now, picture that, but add like a large sharp spine right in front of that fin.”
Hodnett needed to see the fossils for himself.
“At first, when I got there, I was like, ‘Oh man, just leave me in there,” he said with a laugh. “I’ll become a fossil, you know.'”
In November, when he made the outing to Mammoth Cave, he affirmed the discoveries and their importance to mainstream researchers.
“Mammoth Cave plays an important role in like filling a big puzzle piece for what we know about this region in terms of fossil fish,” the paleontologist said. “No one has ever found shark fossils in this particular layer of rock anywhere.”
Toomey is similarly as energized.
“We’re starting to get a pretty good idea of what this ocean would’ve looked like,” he said as he pointed to the fossils. “What makes it worth it is the thrill of discovery.”
Toomey accepts the ongoing disclosures are only the beginning. Since he and others comprehend what to search for, he’s certain more shark fossils will be found. He said the disclosure changes the comprehension of Mammoth Cave’s characteristic history.
The fossils aren’t in a spot the general population can visit, however Toomey trusts the recreation center will figure out how to put a portion of the finds in plain view one day.