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Temporal range: Late Devonian–Triassic
Xenacanthus sessilis.jpg
Impression of the head and body of Xenacanthus sessilis at the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Chondrichthyes
Subclass: Elasmobranchii
Order: Xenacanthida
Family: Xenacanthidae
Genus: Xenacanthus

See text.



Xenacanthus is a genus of prehistoric sharks. The first species of the genus lived in the later Devonian period, and they survived until the end of the Triassic, 202 million years ago. Fossils of various species have been found worldwide.

Life reconstruction of Xenacanthus decheni

Xenacanthus had a number of features that distinguished it from modern sharks. This freshwater shark was about one meter (three feet) in length.[1] The dorsal fin was ribbonlike and ran the entire length of the back and round the tail, where it joined with the anal fin. This arrangement resembles that of modern conger eels, and Xenacanthus probably swam in a similar manner. A distinctive spine projected from the back of the head and gave the genus its name. The teeth had an unusual "V" shape, and it probably fed on small crustaceans and heavily scaled palaeoniscid fishes.[2]

As with all fossil sharks, Xenacanthus is mainly known because of fossilised teeth and spines.

Reconstruction of X. decheni


  • Xenacanthus atriossis
  • Xenacanthus compressus
  • Xenacanthus decheni
  • Xenacanthus denticulatus
  • Xenacanthus erectus
  • Xenacanthus gibbosus
  • Xenacanthus gracilis
  • Xenacanthus howsei
  • Xenacanthus laevissimus
  • Xenacanthus latus
  • Xenacanthus luedernesis
  • Xenacanthus moorei
  • Xenacanthus ossiani
  • Xenacanthus ovalis
  • Xenacanthus parallelus
  • Xenacanthus parvidens
  • Xenacanthus robustus
  • Xenacanthus serratus
  • Xenacanthus slaughteri
  • Xenacanthus taylori

In Popular Culture[edit]

Xenacathus was shown in the forty-third episode of River Monsters, labeled "Prehistoric Terror", wherein it was nicknamed the "eel shark" (which also occasionally is a name used for the frilled shark). The show's host, Jeremy Wade, goes into an in-depth investigation into the habits of the animal, revealing its probable nature as an ambush predator that hunted in fresh water.[3]


  1. ^ Gaines, Richard M. (2001). Coelophysis. ABDO Publishing Company. p. 17. ISBN 1-57765-488-9. 
  2. ^ Palmer, D., ed. (1999). The Marshall Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals. London: Marshall Editions. p. 27. ISBN 1-84028-152-9. 
  3. ^ "Prehistoric Terror". River Monsters. 19 April 2015. Animal Planet.