Twenty four teeth of a prehistoric shark have enriched the collection of the Education and Research Museum, School of Humanities, Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU). Rare fossils were donated by officers of the Ussuriysk Customs of the Far Eastern Customs Administration, who seized the rarities when suspects tried to smuggle them abroad. Scientific review has determined that the teeth belonged to the Otodus obliquus fossil shark (family Otodontidae, order Lamniformes), which lived on Earth more than 30 million years ago.
According to the Ussuriysk Customs officials, the fossils were seized at the border from a Chinese citizen who claimed that he bought the teeth in the territory of the Russian Federation. The exact place of origin of the finds is unknown, but, in the opinion of the FEFU Museum staff, these paleontological antiquities are of scientific value: shark teeth are the main species sign of marine predators; experts can determine the species of a shark and its place in evolution judging by them.
“There are many locations in the world where the teeth of fossil sharks are found. But there is no such kind of teeth in our museum, and now they will diversify our exposition,” said Irina Volvenko, the main curator of the FEFU Museum collections. “Otodus obliguus is interesting because it lived tens of millions of years ago and, presumably, was the ancestor of Megalodon, the biggest shark on Earth, reaching a length of 15 meters.”
There is also a tooth of the megalodon in the exposition of the FEFU Zoological Museum: the petrified sharp triangle about a size of a human palm. The museum experts plan to place new exhibits next to it to present the evolution and diversity of Lamniformes sea predators. The museum staff believes that the fossils can also be a subject of interesting scientific research. The place of origin of antiquities remains a mystery—it is known that such locations are in the Russian Amur region, and it is very probable that the teeth were found there.
Currently, there are about 10,000 exhibits in the FEFU expositions, and about 640,000 are in collections, which make the university's Education and Research Museum one of the largest university repositories of historical and natural collections in the country. The museum's collections are constantly replenished thanks to scientific research of employees and students, as well as donors, including customs service. In 2016, the collection received confiscated at the border ammonites (an extinct subclass of cephalopods), fossils of ancient fish, sperm whale teeth, Hong Kong money notes, and the samovar of the late 19th–early 20th century.