SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Rare buzz saw shark fossil returns to Alaska


May 15, 2015
Friday AM

(SitNews) Seward, Alaska - A rare, estranged fossil rock containing the imprint of a prehistoric shark’s 360-degree spiral of teeth, originally discovered in Alaska nearly 30 years ago, has been returned to the Last Frontier.

jpg Rare buzz saw shark fossil returns to Alaska

Helicoprion (buzz saw shark)
By Ray Troll © 2015
Courtesy Alaska SeaLife Center

“Buzz Saw Sharks of Long Ago,” part of Alaska SeaLife Center’s Summer of Sharks, is a brand new exhibit at the center about a prehistoric, whorl-toothed shark called Helicoprion, or buzz saw shark, that roamed the Permian Seas more than 270 million years ago. The exhibit is on loan from the Idaho Museum of Natural History in collaboration with Ketchikan resident and Alaska artist Ray Troll.

“Buzz Saw Sharks of Long Ago” combines fossils, sculptures and artwork featuring the world’s only animal – past or present – with a complete 360-degree spiral of teeth. In addition to the detailed artwork from Troll, the exhibit also features a documentary film about Troll’s fascination with these sharks, a spiral-patterned art couch, a mechanize model of the whorl tooth shark jaw and a life-size rendition of a Helicoprion head bursting through a wall.

The newest addition to the exhibit is a Helicoprion fossil rock with Alaska roots. Richard K. “Savik” Glenn found the buzz saw shark fossil rock – the only documented find in Alaska – in 1986 as a graduate student on a mapping expedition in the Brooks Range. His master’s thesis advisor, geologist Gil Mull, sent the fossil rock to the Smithsonian Institute for official identification and, due to a filing error, Glenn lost contact with the fossil. Glenn is now the Executive Vice President of Lands and Natural Resources at Arctic Slope Regional Corporation.

Upon hearing Glenn’s account of the fossil he found and inadvertently lost, Helicoprion aficionado and ASLC Ocean Ambassador Award winner Troll worked diligently with fellow Helico-specialists in the scientific community to locate the long lost fossil, which is now joining the current buzz saw shark exhibit at the ASLC.

“I've been obsessed with this big, weird prehistoric shark for over twenty years and to find out that one was found in my home state of Alaska 29 years ago just blows my mind,” said Troll. “You just can't make this stuff up. When Richard told me about the rock, I knew we absolutely had to have it for the exhibit in Seward.”

In March, Glenn visited the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. and was reunited with the fossil he had found in Atigun Gorge 29 years earlier. Multiple whorl specimens have been found in Idaho, Nevada, California, Svalbard and the Urals in Russia, but Glenn’s whorl is currently the only documented find from Alaska.

“I am forever grateful to Dave Bohaska of the National Museum of Natural History, who kept opening storage cabinets until he opened the drawer containing my Helicoprion,” Glenn said. “Seeing it again after almost thirty years was a wonderful experience.”

Visitors and locals alike are encouraged to attend the grand opening of this exhibit on Saturday, May 16 in Seward at the ASLC’s annual SeaLife Summer Festival. The festival will feature daytime activities including juried arts and crafts vendors, live music, a book signing by Troll, a beer garden for those 21 and older and an evening event featuring a sustainable seafood showdown, live music, exclusive access to the exhibits and a meet-and-greet opportunity with Troll.



Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


Source of News:

Alaska SeaLife Center
For more information about the grand opening event visit

About the Alaska SeaLife Center - Opened in 1998, the Alaska SeaLife Center operates as a private, non-profit research institution and public aquarium, with wildlife response and education programs. It generates and shares scientific knowledge to promote understanding and stewardship of Alaska’s marine ecosystems. The ASLC is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums.


Publish A Letter in SitNews

Contact the Editor

SitNews ©2015
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

 Articles & photographs that appear in SitNews may be protected by copyright and may not be reprinted without written permission from and payment of any required fees to the proper sources.

E-mail your news & photos to

Photographers choosing to submit photographs for publication to SitNews are in doing so granting their permission for publication and for archiving. SitNews does not sell photographs. All requests for purchasing a photograph will be emailed to the photographer.