For all the Shark Week fans out there: Think modern-day sharks are fearsome? How about a prehistoric shark that sported devil-like horns around 260 million years ago?
Researchers recently described the extinct sea creature, dubbed Diablodontus michaeledmundi, after finding its fossilized tooth in northern Arizona's Kaibab Formation, which is known for its rich fossil record.
"The Diablo bit comes from devil, because of the two horns above the eye, and in this one, the dontus bit means tooth," study co-author Dr. David Elliott, an earth sciences professor at Northern Arizona University, told The Huffington Post. "This is a shark that’s a member of a group of sharks called Hybodonts, and they are an extinct group of sharks."
Diablodontus michaeledmundi fossilized tooth samples.
The researchers wrote in a recent paper that the horned shark may have had grasping and gouging teeth, and was similar to present-day houndsharks.
Discovery News reported that the horns may have evolved for defense or sexual selection to attract potential mates. Either way, this newfound species sheds light on the array of ancient marine animals that once roamed Arizona -- which was covered by a warm shallow ocean during the middle Permian period.
"This discovery is part of an ongoing project at the Kaibab Formation here describing sharks," Elliott told The Huffington Post. "The work that we’ve been doing shows that there were probably 40 different species."
The paper was published in the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science Bulletin and was added to the Paleobiology Database on July 22, 2013.