Fossil range: Late Devonian - Early Carboniferous
A pair of Stethacanthus altonensis
| Scientific classification
Stethacanthus ("Breast spine") is an extinct genus of shark which lived in the Late Devonian and Early Carboniferous epochs, around 360 million years ago. The creature was almost one meter long. It probably hunted smaller creatures such as small fish. Fossils have been found in Europe and North America.
Stethacanthus was around 70 centimeters (2.3 ft) long, and in many respects, hada typical shark-like appearance. However, it is best known for its unusually shaped dorsal fin, which resembled an anvil or ironing board. Small spikes (enlarged versions of the dermal denticles commonly covering shark skin) covered this crest, and the shark's head as well. Some scientists think the crest may have had a function in courtship; others think it may have been used for self defense.
- Haines, Tim & Chambers, Paul. (2006) The Complete Guide to Prehistoric Life. Canada: Firefly Books Ltd.