Mammoth Cave National Park celebrates National Fossil Day showing off shark fossils found in the cave system

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – You might be thinking sharks? In Kentucky? No way. But there’s something special at Mammoth Cave National Park. 

“This is amazing we gotta go see this, we gotta check this out,” Maryland National Capital Parks paleontologist John-Paul Hodnett. 

Wednesday is National Fossil Day. And at the park, shark fossils have been discovered. 

“It’s extremely exciting for us because this is actually a major paleontological discovery right here at Mammoth Cave. I would argue that this is probably one of the most prominent fossil shark localities right here in the central United States,” said Hodnett. 

The fossils a team of explorers found are some of the most diverse Mississippian shark fauna in North America. They were found in remote cave locations within the park during an ongoing paleontological resources inventory that began in November 2019. 

At least 40 different species of sharks and their relatives have been identified, including six new species. 

Cave Specialist Rick Toomey, said this discovery is special because they not only found teeth, but cartilage as well which is rare. 

“Having these cartilage deposits is just really exciting, because it tells us things that we don’t usually get to see when we just find their little teeth,” said Toomey. 

This will help educate people of the history of the park, and sharks, for years to come. 

“This is, I would say, a very important resource for the community and I’m hoping as Mammoth Cave develops, the educational aspect of this discovery, people can come learn about what Kentucky was like in deep time,” said Hodnett.