A dinosaur-loving Red Deer-area boy found a 60 million-year-old fossilized shark tooth — right in his own front yard.
Max Maurizio, 7, was exploring gravel near his house on an acreage southeast of Red Deer on Monday, when he spotted something that didn’t look like other rocks. It was sharp at one end and about an inch and a half long.
“He came running into the house saying, ‘I found a tooth! I found a tooth!” recalled his mom, Carly Maurizio.
At first, Max’s parents assumed it came from one of their cats. But Carly carefully examined it and decided, “‘it looks pretty old…”
Intrigued by Max’s discovery, his dad, Claudio Maurizio, emailed a photo of the tooth to the world-renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller.
On Tuesday, an emailed response arrived from the museum. The photo had been passed on to Dr. Don Brinkman, an expert on fossil fish and turtles.
Brinkman believes the fossilized tooth very likely belonged to the genus Scapanorhynchus — a type of extinct ancient shark with an elongated snout, whose closest living relative is the goblin shark.
“That is an interesting find,” stated Brinkman in the email.
Scapanorhynchus reached a length of about three metres and was a fully marine animal, “so it is a little unusual getting it in the Red Deer area. However, I have seen a tooth of this genus from exposures of the Horseshoe Canyon Formation in the Tolman Bridge area,” east of Trochu, wrote Brinkman.
He noted rocks around Red Deer are from the Paskapoo Formation and are about 60 million years old.
From 100 million to 66 million years ago, the Prairies were covered by a warm inland sea. Scientists believe this Western Interior Seaway extended 3,000 km, from the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, was 1,000 km wide and 700 metres deep.
The ancient water body contained a wide array of life, including sharks, bony fish, marine reptiles, birds, snails, ammonites and other mollusks.
The Maurizio family appreciates the information the museum provided on the tooth.
Max is particularly thrilled by his find and wants to become a paleontologist someday, said Carly.
Claudio noted his son is always noticing things that other people don’t. Once, before heading on a nature walk with his grandfather in Ontario, Max predicted he would find a bone — and sure enough, he did discover a small piece of wild animal bone, recalled his father.
Since Max has always been fascinated by dinosaurs, the whole family, including younger brother Meyer, regularly camp at Drumheller and visit the museum at least once a year, said Carly.
“Even when we go on little hikes or regular walks, Max is always looking down at the ground, looking for fossils… It’s quite remarkable that they can be found literally anywhere, even in your own yard,” she added.