Allegheny professor studies evolution of shark teeth

Lisa Whitenack would thumb through the wildlife guide from Readers’ Digest in fascination as a child visiting her grandmother’s house.

The guide is hers now, the pages on sharks especially well-loved and dog-eared.

“I was that kid that never outgrew dinosaurs,” said Whitenack, a shark paleobiologist and assistant professor of biology at Allegheny College. “I’ve always been into fossils and dinosaurs and rocks and nature, and I also read a lot about sharks.”

A childhood fascination grew into a career that has Whitenack studying the evolution of shark teeth over more than 300 million years.

Whitenack is visiting museums, trying to measure the shapes of fossilized shark teeth — teeth that look much different from the triangular-shaped teeth we associate with modern sharks. Some of the teeth she is studying have multiple cusps. Some have cusps that are round and cross-sectioned, not flat like those of big, modern sharks.

Read the full article from the Erie Times-News.

ERICA ERWIN can be reached at 870-1846 or by e-mail. Follow her on Twitter at Read the Happier Ed education blog at