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Ancient Shark Fossil Admitted to Presbyterian Rust Medical Center for CT Scan

Publish Date: 
Thursday, May 8, 2014 - 12:00pm


Donna Domenici, NMMNHS Foundation

505 841-2889  

Amanda Schoenberg, Presbyterian Healthcare Services 

C: 831-332-5785. Email: 

Kerri Dufault, Presbyterian Healthcare Services

C: 505-250-7294. Email:



Ancient Shark Fossil Admitted to Presbyterian Rust Medical Center for CT Scan

NMMNHS and Presbyterian Team Up to Make History!


Please join the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science at Presbyterian Rust Medical Center on Friday, May 16 at 9am when we prepare to perform a CT Scan on a recently discovered New Mexico shark fossil.


The discovery of the Ctenacanth (spiny) shark fossil in the Manzano Mountains is unprecedented because this type of shark has never been found in New Mexico beyond some tooth and spine fragments, and it is also the first time a complete body of this type of shark has ever been found in North America. This is presently the best-preserved Ctenacanth shark in the world!


The fossil was discovered on May 21, 2013, in a clay pit that used to be a lagoon 300 million years ago in the Pennsylvanian period by John Paul Hodnett. It is believed that there was no oxygen at the bottom of the quarry, so no bacteria lived to decompose the shark cartilage after it died. This is an extremely rare case of what paleontologists call soft-body preservation.


But Mr. Hodnett and Dr. Spencer Lucas, Chief Curator at the NMMNHS, have questions that cannot be answered by a surface inspection of this prized specimen. Mr. Hodnett said, “The 8-foot long shark is believed to be female based on the high quality preservation of this specimen, which shows no external evidence of claspers — the cartilaginous sex organs seen only in all male sharks. But we really need a better look to be certain.”  That’s when Presbyterian Rust Medical Center got involved.


Officials at Rust were excited to offer their state-of-the-art facility to give museum researchers a significantly more in-depth view of the shark. Jeff McBee, Administrator, Presbyterian Rust Medical Center, said “We are very excited to work with the museum on this project. This is an opportunity for two iconicNew Mexico institutions to team up and very literally make history.” The fossil will be transported to Rust Medical Center and admitted for a CT scan that will provide the museum scientists with a more complete view of the internal brain case structure of the shark.


The shark fossil will be on display at the event, and Mr. Hodnett and Dr. Lucas will be joined by both Hospital and Museum officials. There will be a short program preceding the scan, and all will be available to speak with the press after the scan is complete.  




About the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science

The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science preserves and interprets the distinctive natural and scientific heritage of our state through extraordinary collections, research, exhibits, and programs designed to ignite a passion for lifelong learning.

About Presbyterian Healthcare Services

Presbyterian Healthcare Services exists to improve the health of patients, members and the communities we serve. Presbyterian was founded in New Mexico in 1908, and is the state’s only private, not-for-profit healthcare system. Presbyterian has eight hospitals, a statewide health plan, and a growing multi-specialty medical group. Presbyterian is the second largest private employer in New Mexico with more than 9,600 employees. 




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