There is always something unusual in the sea, a phrase I have heard very often from marine scientists and which I have been known to utter myself. It comes to my mind time and again when I am preparing this fortnightly radio programme.
From somewhere in my educational background, most likely with the Presentation Brothers in Cork aeons ago, I became conditioned to believe in a world that was, seemingly, manufactured within a defined religious-approved period, but I did not conceive then as a youngster that this could have happened many, many millions of years back, before the period recognised by the Brothers who taught me a lot that I value today, but were less informative about the millions of years BC.
So, when I come across information about a new discovery in the ocean, dating back many millions of years ago, the dating of them still comes as a surprise to me. Perhaps that is reflective of my age, or rather maturity, which I prefer to regard it as – maturing … like a good wine!
Anyway, that phrase came back to me when collating the News review for the current edition of THIS ISLAND NATION and two stories which came from North America about discoveries going back those ‘millions of years ago’. They reported that sharks existed on Earth 300 million years ago and that was before the age of the Dinosaurs. The discoveries have been made by marine scientists in Texas and New Mexico. The fossil of a shark more than 8 metres long - that’s about 26 feet - and a quarter longer than the modern great white shark – has been found in Jacksboro, Texas, on what was the seabed of the Western Interior Seaway which covered Texas in water 300 million years ago. In addition to that, a nearly-complete fossilised shark that also dates to about 300 million years ago has been found during an archaeological dig in a quarry in New Mexico. A female specimen, this measures 6 feet, that’s around 2 metres, long.
It all shows that we still know less about the seas than we do about the Universe – and that’s something else which scientists say quite often!