Monster jaws

Who did these unusual teeth belong to?

With the help of Sussex Wildlife Trust we compared some of our fossil animal teeth from 85 million years ago to jaws of animals that live in UK seas today.

Shark fossil teeth,  Ptychodus sp.

Originally this  ray-like shark would have used a battery of such teeth for crushing molluscs and crustaceans.

Ray Lamna appendiculata sp., teeth fossil. Photo by Bob Foreman.

These teeth look quite similar to a tropical species of ray’s teeth – the Cow nosed ray, however these live in tropical shallow seas. The UK species of ray that we have chosen as an equivalent is the Thornback ray.

Thornback Ray, Raja clavate

thornback ray©Paul NaylorSussex Wildlife Trust.JPG


Thornback rays are regularly seen by divers. They have flattened bodies covered in blotches of colour to help them camouflage into the sand or mud or gravel. They have a long thorned tail. The males are smaller than the females.

How to identify:

Flat bodies with yellow and brown patches on their backs. Long thorny tail and protruding eye sockets.


Found all around the UK coast.

Fantastic facts:

Females can lay up to 150 egg cases every year. When the babies hatch, these cases are often washed up onto the beach.

Pipe fish jaw

These teeth would have belonged to a long-snouted slender fish, one of many similar bony fish that lived in the Chalk Seas of NW Europe.

Pipe fish jaw. Photo by Bob Foreman

Greater Pipefish, Syngnathus acus

Greater pipefish©Paul NaylorSussex Wildlife Trust.jpg


The pipefish has a long, segmented body, about 45 cm long. It lives in seaweed and seagrass and feeds on small prawns and mysid shrimp.

How to identify:

Thin segmented body with a long snout and a hump just behind the eyes


Commonly seen around the southwest coast and welsh coastlines.

Fantastic facts:

Just like seahorses, the males (not the females) look after the eggs in a brood pouch until they are ready to hatch.

…and finally we couldn’t resist adding our favourite sea creature which is protected in our Sussex Marine Conservation Zones…

Short-snouted seahorse, Hippocampus hippocampus

short-snouted seahorse©Paul NaylorSussex Wildlife Trust.jpg


Seahorses prefer to live in seagrass and shallow estuaries.

How to identify:

Distinctive horse like head with snout and a curling tail which is uses for holding onto things


Has been recorded along the south and southwest coasts of the UK.

Fantastic facts:

Seahorses usually mate for life and perform a courtship dance with their partner every morning. The male seahorses get pregnant and give birth to the young.


View more Monster Jaws from the Booth Museum’s in our Monster Jaw gallery

2 Replies to “Monster jaws”

  1. Good Afternoon,

    Whilst browsing though images of fossil sharks, I came across these pages.
    You head your first photograph, “Fossil teeth Ray, Lamna appendiculata sp.”
    At the risk of being a know it all, there are three errors here:-

    1. The teeth figured belong to a shark, albeit possibly ray like, and not a ray. (Cappetta, 2012. Handbook of Paleoichthyology, Chondrichthyes Volume 3E) p78-81)

    2. The shark’s genus is Ptychodus AGASSIZ 1838 (Same ref) The quarries around Brighton, such as those in Lewes, have produced some superb examples, many of which are stored in the Booth Museum.

    3. Lamna appendiculata is now out of date. Having changed to Otodus appendiculata, it is now Cretolamna appendiculata AGASSIZ 1838 (1843B) (Same ref, but p234 to 236) These synonymies are enough to drive anyone crazy!

    I live in Brighton and am a member of:
    Brighton and Hove Geology Society and therefore know John Cooper.
    The Tertiary Research Group

    I hope my comments are helpful.

    Tim Hobbs

    1. Dear Tim,

      Many thanks for your helpful comments. I have now amended the common name and changed to the genus Ptychodus. Very best wishes, Grace Brindle Collections Assistant (Natural Sciences)

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