In 1993, Alaskan artist and paleo-fish freak Ray Troll stumbled upon the weirdest fossil he had ever seen—a platter-sized spiral of tightly wound shark teeth. This chance encounter in the basement of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County sparked Troll's obsession with Helicoprion, a mysterious monster shark from deep time. In 2010, tattooed amateur strongman and returning Iraq War veteran Jesse Pruitt was also severely smitten by a Helicoprion fossil in a museum basement in Idaho. These two bizarre-shark disciples found each other, and an unconventional band of collaborators grew serendipitously around them, determined to solve the puzzle of the tooth whorl once and for all.Helicoprion was a bizarre Paleozoic chondrichthyan about the size of a modern great white shark, with a circular saw of teeth centered in its lower jaw—a feature unseen in the shark world before or since. For a span of some eight million years during the Permian period, long before the Age of Dinosaurs, Helicoprion species patrolled shallow seas around the supercontinent Gondwana.Imagination, passion, scientific process, and state-of-the-art technology merged into an unstoppable force, and the ancient predator ripped into the spotlight of the modern world, dazzling and awe-inspiring.
Susan Ewing is the author of The Great Alaska Nature Factbook, The Great Rocky Mountain Nature Factbook, and Going Wild in Washington and Oregon, as well as two children's books. Her nonfiction articles and essays have appeared in Salon, Pacific Standard, Outside Bozeman, Gray's Sporting Journal, Big Sky Journal, The Seattle Times, and other publications. Born and raised in Kentucky, she graduated from University of Alaska-Fairbanks and now lives in Bozeman, Montana.