Feeding and Diet
Squalicorax was a genus of carnivorous shark. While it is known that Squalicorax was a meat-eater, paleontologists have wondered whether it primarily subsisted off scavenging or hunting. Squalicorax certainly scavenged for part of its diet. Squalicorax teeth have been found embedded in the bones of terrestrial animals, such as "duck-billed" hadrosaur dinosaurs, which could not have been alive when they reached a marine environment. Squalicorax teeth have also been found embedded in bones, which were already decayed at the time of feeding (1). To find these decaying animals, Squalicorax relied on its strong sense of smell, as indicated by large nasal capsules. This is an adaptation seen often in scavenging animals (2).
The teeth of Squalicorax also imply a scavenging habit. Other shark species found in similar deposits show long and slender teeth with large gaps between them. This is an adaptation for capturing and eating live fish (3). Squalicorax had a different sort of teeth. Their teeth are much wider and more heavily serrated, better suited for tearing flesh and gnawing (4). While this collective evidence suggests that Squalicorax certainly scavenged to fulfill at least part of its feeding needs, it remains unclear whether it was an obligate scavenger or an opportunistic one.
- 1. Schwimmer, David R., J. D. Stewart, and G. Dent Williams. "Scavenging by sharks of the genus Squalicorax in the Late Cretaceous of North America." Palaios (1997): 71-83.
- 2. Shimada, Kenshu, and David J. Cicimurri. "Skeletal anatomy of the Late Cretaceous shark, Squalicorax (Neoselachii: Anacoracidae)." Palaeontologische Zeitschrift 79.2 (2005): 241-261.
- 3. Springer, Stewart. "Dynamics of the feeding mechanism of large galeoid sharks." American Zoologist (1961): 183-185.
- 4. Cappetta, Henri. Chondrichthyes II: mesozoic and cenozoic elasmobranchii. Vol. 2. G. Fischer Verlag, 1987.
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