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Temporal range: Early Carboniferous
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Chondrichthyes
Subclass: Elasmobranchii
Order: Xenacanthiformes
Family: Sphenacanthidae
Genus: Sphenacanthus
Agassiz, 1837[1]
Type species
Sphenacanthus serrulatus
Agazzis, 1837
  • Sphenacanthus aequistriatus Davis, 1879
  • Sphenacanthus carbonarius Giebel, 1848
  • Sphenacanthus costellatus Traquair, 1884
  • Sphenacanthus hybodoides Newberry, 1873
  • Sphenacanthus ignis Figueroa & Gallo, 2017
  • Sphenacanthus gondwanus Silva Santos, 1947
  • Sphenacanthus maranhensis Silva Santos, 1946
  • Sphenacanthus marshi Newberry, 1873
  • Sphenacanthus riorastoensis Pauliv et al., 2012
  • Sphenacanthus sanpauloensis Chahud et al., 2010
  • Sphenacanthus serrulatus Agassiz, 1837

Sphenacanthus is an extinct genus of a chondrichtyan xenacanthiform that belongs to the Sphenacanthidae family and lived during the Carboniferous periodo in Scotland,[2] Spain,[3] Russia[4] and Brazil.[5] It lived 359 million years ago, and probably it was one of the first member of the elasmobranchians, the lineage that leads to the modern sharks. Sphenacanthus probably hunts small fishes and, unlike their modern-day relatives, its inhabited fresh water lagoons. Sphenacanthus had seven fins, two in the upper part and five in the underside, and it have a heterodont dentition and mandibles relatively long and deeper.[2]


Sphenacanthus was discovered in Carboniferous terrains of Scotland (Visén Oil Shale Groups), in the United Kingdom, in ancient fresh water systems, a habitat that also is known in the Paraná Basin in Brazil (Rio do Rasto Formation). Another findings, like those of the Puertollano Bason in Spain suggests that also it lived in zones of marine influence, in brackish waters.[5] It shared its environment with other primitive sharks, including to Xenacanthus of one meter in length and the similar species, Tristychius arcuatus.[2] It is possible that Sphenacanthus may have preyed on its smaller relatives.


  1. ^ L. Agassiz. 1837. Recherches Sur Les Poissons Fossiles. Tome III (livr. 8-9). Imprimérie de Petitpierre, Neuchatel viii-72
  2. ^ a b c Dick, John R. F. (1998). "Sphenacanthus, a Palaeozoic freshwater shark". Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. 122 (1-2): 9–25. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.1998.tb02523.x. 
  3. ^ Soler-Gijón, R. 1997. Euselachian sharks from the LateCarboniferous of the Puertollano Basin, Spain: bioestratigraphicand palaeoenvironmental implications. Modern Geology, 21:137-169.
  4. ^ A. Ivanov. 1999. Late Devonian - Early Permian chondrichthyans of the Russian Arctic. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 49(3):267-285
  5. ^ a b V. E. Pauliv, E. V. Dias, and F. A. Sedor. 2012. A new species of sphenacanthid (Chondrichthyes, Elasmobranchii) from the Rio do Rasto Formation (Paraná basin), southern Brazil. Revista Brasileira de Paleontologia 15:243-250
  • Chahud, A.; Fairchild, T.R. & Petri, S. 2010. Chondrichthyans from the base of the Irati Formation (Early Permian, Paraná

Basin), São Paulo, Brazil. Gondwana Research, 18:528-537.doi:10.1016/j.gr.2010.01.006

  • Silva-Santos, R. 1946. Duas novas formas de Elasmobrânquios do Paleozóico do Meio Norte, Brasil. Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências, 18:281-287.
  • Silva-Santos, R. 1947. Um Ctenacanthus do Gondwana brasileiro. Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências, 19:247-253.