For some of us, they're scary, invincible creatures that we never wish to cross paths with. And strangely enough, scientists just made a shocking discovery about sharks that might suggest there was once nearly zero chance of running into one. Here's what they uncovered about the underwater species.
Approximately 19 million years ago, the ancient creatures were almost completely wiped out - about 90% of their entire population, to be exact. Researchers came across this startling discovery upon studying dated fossils found in the Pacific Ocean.
Oceanographer Elizabeth Sibert and Leah Rubin - then an undergraduate from the College of the Atlantic in Maine - stumbled across the mysterious revelation by mere chance. The researchers had been analyzing both fish teeth and shark scales nestled deep in sediment cores. Their goal was to better grasp the "natural background variability of these fossils," as Sibert explained. Only what they learned left them very puzzled.
In the span of about 100,000 years, the ratio of fish teeth to shark scales found among the sediment dropped drastically. What started as about 5:1 soon transformed into 100 teeth for every 1 scale. The sudden disappearance of shark scales brought up endless questions. It suggested a drastic change in the species' former population. "Sharks have been around for 400 million years... And yet this event wiped out [up to] 90 percent of them," Sibert explained.
Unfortunately, scientists have yet to offer an explanation for the peculiar near-extinction. “It’s a great mystery,” Elizabeth continued. As she explained it, “Nineteen million years ago is not known as a formative time in Earth’s history.” While the modern-day world of science boasts state-of-the-art equipment and technology, it’s still unclear what drastic event caused the sharks’ plummeting population.
But Elizabeth assured those interested that she's not going to stop searching until answers are found. After all, there has to be more to the story. "The sharks are trying to tell us something," the oceanographer warned. "And I can’t wait to find out what it is." In the meantime, we'll rejoice these water creatures made a comeback - otherwise, we wouldn't have shark cuddles!