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Science and the Environment

New Species of Shark Spine Found in Smallin Cave

1400 feet back into the depths of Smallin Cave, owner Kevin Bright and the Executive Director for the Missouri Institute of Natural History Matt Forir found an extinct shark spine fossilized in the limestone of the caves.

They think the fossil might be the spine of a new shark species. However, they do know it is of the genus ctenacanthus and was about three feet long. Forir says throughout the cave, particularly the ceiling, you will find the occasional sharks tooth or bone fragment – but he says he’s never found anything like this.

The cave has what Forir says is a vertebrate horizon - meaning when the cave had water running through it, the Burlington limestone would deposit along what was then the river bed. It would also leave behind a layer of fish remains. These remains are now fossils that show the predators of over 350 million years ago in the Ozarks.

“Back then, the ocean covered the Ozarks. We were near the equator and so kind of picture the Bahamas, sandy beaches, coral reefs, shallow sea less than 300 feet deep. If you had a boat, it might be nice. That is what the Ozarks would have looked like,” Forir says.

For now, the spine remains at Smallin Cave in Ozark, Missouri for public viewing.

For more information, check our our website,

For KSMU News I’m Shannon Bowers.