Thirteen Prehistoric Shark Teeth Found in Giant Underwater Cave in Mexico

Divers have discovered thirteen ancient shark teeth in a giant, water-filled sinkhole in central Mexico, according to reports.

Speleologists (scientists who study caves) Erick Sosa Rodriguez and Kay Nicte Vilchis Zapata said that some of the teeth could belong to the extinct shark megalodon—one of the largest and most powerful predators to have ever lived—Mexican outlet Telemar Yucatán reported.

Meanwhile, others could represent those of mako sharks or sawsharks—which are still alive today—although the species involved will have to be confirmed by further analysis.

The pair say that the teeth could date back to the Pliocene epoch (5.3 to 2.6 million years ago) and Miocene epoch (23 to 5.3 million years ago.)

The researchers found the teeth embedded in the walls of the underwater cave, known as Xoc cenote, which is located north of the city of Mérida in the Mexican state of Yucatán.

"We were looking at the wall and suddenly I saw that there was a little something, I went closer and I see that it was a tooth, apparently that of a sawshark," Vilchis Zapata told Mexican news outlet Exelsior.

"Xoc" is the word for fish in the Mayan language and some say it is the origin of the word "shark" in English.

A cenote is a natural sinkhole which is created when limestone bedrock collapses, exposing subterranean groundwater. Cenotes are particularly associated with the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico and they played an important role in the belief system of the Maya who considered them sacred.

During their explorations of the cave, the researchers also found some fossilized manta ray remains and even human bones. Initial analysis suggests that these belong to a juvenile or younger individual although more investigations are needed.

Stock photo: Artist's rendering of a Megalodon. iStock

The researchers say that this is the second cenote in the region where ancient shark teeth have been found, the Yucatán Times reported.

Studying the teeth that the divers found could provide insights into the species that lived in the region millions of years ago when parts of the Yucatán Peninsula were underwater, the researchers said.

Xoc cenote—which was only discovered recently—is believed to be the third largest flooded cave in the municipality of Mérida, extending for more than 2,000 feet and reaching depths of around 90 feet, Excelsior reported.

The Yucatán Peninsula is home to the world's largest flooded cave system, the full extent of which was only discovered last year, researchers from the Great Maya Aquifier Project reported. This cave system extends for a staggering 215 miles.

Megalodon is now extinct but it was a fearsome predator in its day, growing up to around 60 feet in length and weighing as much as 37 tons.

Megalodon is thought to have first appeared between 28 and 23 million years ago and likely went extinct between 2.6 and 1.6 million years ago, according to various estimates.

The shark's name is Greek for "big tooth"—an apt description given that Megalodon teeth can measure up to 7 inches in length.