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Georgia Journal of Science

Article Title

ANALYZING THE SHARK PALEOECOLOGY OF COASTAL GEORGIA FROM THE MIOCENE AND PLIOCENE EPOCHS

Abstract

Shark paleoecology is a subject matter that often yields indecisive conclusions based on the limited fossilization of their anatomical structures, with the exception of their teeth. The majority of the Atlantic coast has been studied regarding the presence of certain prehistoric shark species from the Miocene, Pliocene, and Pleistocene epochs. However, the information pertaining to the Georgia coast seems relatively understudied, leaving room for the analysis of its potential community structure during this time. A study was conducted in which thousands of fossil shark specimens and subsequent marine fauna were collected from dredge spoils created by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE): Savannah District. A total of 5,127 fossil shark teeth were collected, of which 4,981 were identified. Twenty-three potential species are believed to be included in this assemblage. Additional research conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey in 2001 shed light on the fossil formations beneath Brunswick, including their specific depths below sea level. Communication with the USACE detailed their annual dredging depths of 36, 38, and 41 feet below the Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW). Combining this information with the known life histories of each of the 23 species of prehistoric sharks, it was determined that all specimens coexisted during a time period from the late Miocene to early Pliocene (8.0-3.0 Ma) and being preserved in the Ebenezer Member 5 formation. Further research regarding the ecological roles of all identified shark species can create an even more precise look into the community structure of coastal Georgia during the late Miocene and early Pliocene.

Acknowledgements

CCGA Dept. Natural Sciences, Allegheny College Dept. of Biology/Geology, and USACE

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