Melbourne: Scientists have said that a keen-eyed amateur enthusiast has discovered a rare set of teeth from a giant prehistoric mega-shark on an Australian beach.
Philip Mullaly discovered the seven centimetre-long teeth while he was strolling along an area known as a fossil hotspot at Jan Juc, on the country's famous Great Ocean Road some 100 kilometres from Melbourne.
"I was walking along the beach looking for fossils, turned and saw this shining glint in a boulder and saw a quarter of the tooth exposed," he said.
"I was immediately excited, it was just perfect and I knew it was an important find that needed to be shared with people."
He told Museums Victoria, and Erich Fitzgerald, senior curator of vertebrate palaeontology, confirmed the teeth belonged to an extinct species of predator known as the great jagged narrow-toothed shark (Carcharocles angustidens).
The shark, some 25-million-years ago, feasted on small whales and penguins. It could grow more than nine metres long, almost twice the length of the great white shark of today.
"These teeth are of international significance, as they represent one of just three associated groupings of Carcharocles angustidens teeth in the world, and the very first set to ever be discovered in Australia," Fitzgerald said.
Almost all fossils of sharks around the world were just single teeth and it was extremely rare to find multiple teeth from the same shark, he said.
"The stench of blood and decaying flesh would have drawn scavengers from far around," Museums Victoria palaeontologist Tim Ziegler said said.
"Sixgill sharks still exist off the Victorian coast today, where they live off the remains of whales and other animals. This find suggests they have performed that lifestyle here for tens of millions of years."