PHOTO BY BRIAN SWITEK.-A life-sized restoration of Helicoprion by artist Gary Staab
A new exhibit featuring an ancient fish discovered to have buzz saw jaws is on display in the Idaho Museum of Natural History in Pocatello.
Fossils of the fish were being found in abundance in eastern Idaho’s phosphate mines around Pocatello. Over 270 million years ago, that area was an ancient sea that hosted some pretty gnarly looking sea creatures. The jaw of the fish was easily identifiable by the spirals of tear-drop shaped teeth.
The spiral shape of fossils found had scientists coming up with all types of imagined shapes for the mouth of this fish.
A gallery of Helicoprion hypotheses. Artwork © Ray Troll 2013
Thanks to the persistent questions of student Jesse Pruitt, the technical expertise of paleontologist Leif Tapanila and colleagues, and, most of all, the obsession of artist Ray Troll, the whorl-toothed “shark” has turned out to be a sleek, buzzsaw-jawed ratfish that sliced through ancient cephalopods with a single blade of enamel-covered spikes.
National Geographic recently reported a full description of the display here.