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Researcher: New shark species tooth found near Flagstaff

PHOENIX -- Just when you thought it was safe to go back to northern Arizona comes word that sharks used to roam around Flagstaff.

It was a long, long time ago.

"[About] 260 million years ago, there was a warm shallow seaway that covered most of the American southwest all the way up to areas of Wyoming and Idaho," said Northern Arizona University student John-Paul Hodnett.

That seaway had lots of sharks. Hodnett said over 40 fossilized sharks teeth have been found in the limestone around the Flagstaff area since 2006. One of the teeth was on the NAU campus. According to Hodnett, all of the fossils are now in the Museum of Northern Arizona.

The latest tooth was found recently near Munds Park. Hodnett said it belonged to a prehistoric shark called Diablodontus michaeledmundi, also known as the devil's tooth shark.

He said the shark is appropriately named.

"They had a devilish look in the first place, but they also belong to an extinct group of sharks that had funny little horned-like spikes on the top of the head and spines on its fins," Hodnett said. "They were, in essence, a devil-looking shark."

The tooth found near Munds Park is about the size of a dime. Hodnett estimated that it came from a shark that was about three-and-a-half feet long.

Hodnett added that many of the finds were on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, and older shark's teeth have been found as far south as Payson. He said it's possible that there may be shark's teeth buried in the Phoenix area.

Hodnett said he and co-author David Elliott wrote a report about the sharks that was recently published in Bulletin of the New Mexico Museum of Natural Science. For more information, click here.

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About the Author


Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.

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