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Article: Killing in the Pliocene: shark attack on a dolphin from Italy

Publication: Palaeontology
Volume: 53
Part: 2
Publication Date: March 2010
Page(s): 457 470
Author(s): Giovanni Bianucci, Barbara Sorce, Tiziano Storai and Walter Landini
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How to Cite

BIANUCCI, G., SORCE, B., STORAI, T., LANDINI, W. 2010. Killing in the Pliocene: shark attack on a dolphin from Italy. Palaeontology53, 2, 457–470.

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Shark bite marks, including striae, sulci and abrasions, in a well-preserved fossil dolphin skeleton referred to Astadelphis gastaldii (Cetacea, Delphinidae) from Pliocene sediments of Piedmont (northern Italy), are described in detail. The exceptional combination of a fossil dolphin having a significant part of the skeleton preserved and a large number of bite marks on the bones represents one of the few detailed documentations of shark attack in the past. Most bite marks have been referred to a shark about 4 m long with unserrated teeth, belonging to Cosmopolitodus hastalis, on the basis of their shape and their general disposition on the dolphin skeleton. According to our hypothesis, the shark attacked the dolphin with an initial mortal bite to the abdomen from the rear and right, in a similar way as observed for the living white shark when attacking pinnipeds. A second, less strong, bite was given on the dorsal area when the dolphin, mortally injured, probably rolled to the left. The shark probably released the prey, dead or dying, and other sharks or fishes probably scavenged the torn body of the dolphin.
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