Bearsden sharks

BearsdensharkThe conditions in the shallow tropical seas of the Carboniferous period left Scotland with a wealth of rare, beautifully preserved shark fossils. The best shark fossils, alongside a number of other bony fishes, were discovered by Stan Wood in the shale beds of Bearsden’s Manse Burn, Glasgow, in 1981. Thanks to the particular conditions present in the lagoons in this area at that time – and the thick mud into which the sharks settled when they died – the cartilage skeletons of the sharks were not damaged by predators or other environmental factors. Previously, only the teeth and spines of fish of this age had been found across the globe.

The complete skeleton of a 330 million year old shark, the best preserved in the world from that time, was among Wood’s first discoveries in Bearsden. The detail of the fossil is such that even the remains of the shark’s last meal can still be seen inside its stomach. Blood vessels and remnants of the shark’s muscles also remain. Affectionately known as the ‘Bearsden Shark’, the fossil has has been describe and named Akmonistion zangerli, a species previously unknown to science. It is on display at Glasgow University’s Hunterian museum.

The shark was celebrated in Edwin Morgan’s poem The Bearsden Shark and the site of the find is marked with a plaque and cairn.

BID4Matt Dale, owner of Mr Wood’s Fossil Shop in Edinburgh, says
The Bearsden Shark excavation in the early 80s was a fantastic example of bringing palaeontology to the public. In the shop where Akmonistion adorns business cards and hangs above the door I still have people who visited the dig site coming in and sharing their memories of Stan Wood, and their excitement at the finds being made so close to their homes and schools. It captured the imagination of the people, and that of the poet Edwin Morgan, who penned an ode in its honour. From a purely scientific point of view, Akmonistion is important simply because it’s one of the best-preserved shark fossils ever found, anywhere. Its spiny fin and forehead still remain a bit of a mystery!