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The Mystery of Helicoprion

Helicoprion is a shark from the Permian age (270 million years old) found today in the phosphate quarries of southeast Idaho. Although Helicoprion is known globally, the Phosphoria deposits in Idaho preserve the largest, most abundant and pristine specimens of the fossil, which include the lower jaw cartilage, teeth and rare impressions of skin. The peculiar spiraled arrangement of teeth (whorl) in Helicoprion is the subject of many speculative reconstructions on the anatomy and function of the animal, but these studies often rely on poorly preserved or relatively few specimens. In fact, 10 species of the genus are formally named and it appears that one third of the holotypes are missing from museum collections. Using the specimens of Helicoprion fossils in the collections of the Idaho Museum of Natural History and additional specimens in collections elsewhere, this study is the first to conduct geometric morphometry to establish variation among and within species of the genus.

Current students

Jesse Pruitt, Undergraduate Museum Research Assistant




Alaskan artist Ray Troll, Tapanila, and Undergraduate researcher Jesse Pruitt with Idaho's famous shark. Photo courtesy of Susan Duncan, ISU.

Article about new Helicoprion find at Monsanto mine


Article about Ray Troll & Helicoprion at ISU/IMNH