The Buzzsaw Sharks of Long Ago

Roughly 290 million years ago, a genus of a very distinctive shark-like fish, the Helicoprion, swam in the ancient sea that once covered much of the region. Alaskan artist Ray Troll refers to this creature as the “weirdest, coolest shark of all time,” and for good reason. The Helicoprion, whose name means ‘spiral saw,’ owned what is arguably the most unusual set of teeth in the animal kingdom. Fossils of some individuals suggest that their body length could have reached 39 feet.

Although the first fossils of Helicoprion were discovered in 1899 in the Ural Mountains of Russia, they presented a true mystery for paleontologists for over a century. What type of creature was it? Where was the crazy whorl located on the animal? Was it worn on the nose or perhaps the back for defense? Through the sketches and musings of the Helicoprion-obsessed Troll, this exhibit explores how cutting-edge research—much of which was conducted here in the High Desert—finally began to unravel this fish’s story. 

The Buzzsaw Sharks of Long Ago exhibition blends art, science and humor. This dynamic exhibit has something for the whole family, featuring kids’ activities, an array of fossils and a short video, Troll's original artworks, life-sized sculptures by paleo-sculptor Gary Staab, music and more. Amazing things can happen when science and art merge; come and experience them for yourself!

September 24 through April 23, 2017

The exhibit is organized by the Idaho Museum of Natural History in collaboration with Ray Troll.

With support from Cascade Journal and the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation