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Curtin palaeontologist finds more tooth to shark story

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Fossil named after former WA Chief Scientist Lyn Beazley

Research recently published in the scientific journal PLOS One substantially strengthens the theory that the modern shark is less primitive than previously believed.

Curtin University palaeontologist Associate Professor Kate Trinajstic, from the Faculty of Science and Engineering, was a major contributor to this work, which was led by Flinders University palaeontologist Professor John Long.

The research tested fossil remains discovered by Professor Long in July 2005 at Gogo in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

Dating from the Devonian Period (380 million years old) the fossil reveals an ancient shark caught in evolutionary shift.

Dr Trinajstic said the fossil had been named after Curtin Adjunct Distinguished Professor, former Chief Scientist of WA and Western Australia’s Australian of the Year, Professor Lyn Beazley.

“Gogoselachus lynbeazleyae was named to recognise Professor Beazley’s contribution to championing science in Western Australia,” Dr Trinajstic said.

“Professor Beazley has been a strong advocate for science and has had a long association with the Western Australian Museum where the fossil is now housed.

“The genus name is derived from Gogo, the name of the rock formation where the fossil was found, and selachos which is the Greek for shark. The species name for Professor Beazley is lynbeazleyae,” Dr Trinajstic said.

Dr Trinajstic analysed the morphology of the specimen and said detailed CT scanning analysis had shown that the three-dimensional remnant skeleton contains a small proportion of bone as well as cartilage.

Curtin Dean of Science Professor Jo Ward said Dr Trinajstic’s efforts were evidence of Curtin’s strong commitment to being a research-focussed university.

“The publication in such a prestigious journal shows Curtin is being recognised widely for its continued contribution to modern knowledge, across the science community and our research peers,” Professor Ward said.

The Gogo formation, which is the remains of a tropical reef now located far inland, has proved to be one of the most important sources of Devonian fossil fish in the world.

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