Compagno (2005) includes a single extant species in the genus, Hemipristis elongatus (KLUNZUNGER, 1871). This is a small to medium-sized (1.2 to 2.3m) coastal species of tropical continental and insular waters, ranging from 1-130m depths. It is an Indo-West Pacific taxon reported from South Africa to Australia and up to China. It is reported to feed on sharks, rays, bony fish and cephalopods.

The dentition is cutting-clutching in design displaying dignathic and disjunct heterodonty; the latter is striking because it's more reminiscent of lamniform dentitions. The anterior portion of each quadrate has a bulla, particularly salient in the lowers. The upper contains four alternating files while the lower includes eight tightly-packed anteriors. The lateral hollows contain ten to eleven upper and nine lower weakly imbricated files. Based on the accompanying tooth-set:1
Upper files. The first two files are parasymphyseal-like; small with mesiodistally compressed lobes and no serrations. Serrations begin on the third file where the distal becomes serrate, and appear on both edges in the fourth position when the cusp begins to broaden and becomes more distally inclined. Serrations extend 75% up the crown, growing larger apically. The lingual protuberance is prominent, more so in more anteriorly positioned files, and a nutrient groove is present. In lateral profile the uppers are relatively straight compared with corresponding lowers.
The lower files are more clutching in design, with their mesio-distally compressed crowns. The first four positions tend to lack or have a significantly reduced basal cusplet-like serration. By the fifth file, a second distal serration appears and by the eight file, the distal edge has four serrations and the mesial only one. In fully serrate positions, they extend approximately 60% up the crown. The lower files tend to be smaller, thicker and more lingually directed than the uppers.
Although there are variations between individuals, the general propensities as manifested by this tooth-set are similar with other individuals

Two fossil species are widely recognized:

  • H. curvatus DAMES 1883 - Eocene of Africa, North and South America. Finding no merit in White's (1956) arguments to assign NA Eocene teeth to H. wyattdurhami, this website will view it as a junior synonym of H. curvatus.
  • H. serra AGASSIZ 1843 - Neogene, circumglobal in tropical/warm temperate seas.
    These appear to represent chronospecies in which the teeth get larger and more serrate (particularly the mesial margin) over time. Early Oligocene specimens (Figs -) compare well with curvatus, while later Oligocene specimens (pers. obs., or Muller plate 8:9-15 Ashley Fm., SC, Old Church Fm., VA) are more serra-like with a serrate mesial edge.

    This webpage will use H. curvatus for small Eocene - Early Oligocene specimens with a relatively smooth mesial edge and H. serra for the larger Late Oligocene - Neogene specimens with a serrate mesial edge. Chandler et al (2006) studied the morphological change in Miocene Hemipristis teeth observing a growth in tooth-size and cutting-edge serration coverage over time (these authors placed the Belgrade Fm [NC, Late Oligocene] material they studied in H. serra). Compagno (1988:270-71) noted that the histology of H. elongatus teeth are osteodont (no pulp cavity) while the fossil species had been reported (and verified by him) as orthodont.

    The North American fauna includes multiple reports:

  • Eastman (1904) included H. serra from the Miocene of Maryland.
  • Jordan (1907) reported H. heteropleurus AGASSIZ 1856 (= serra) from the Middle Miocene of Kern Co. CA.
  • White (1956:135) described H. wyattdurhami for H. curvatus-like teeth from Alabama.
  • Case (1980: 86 & 1981: 63) included H. wyattdurhami from the Trent Fm (Early Oligocene, NC).and Clinchfield Sand (Late Eocene) of Georgia.
  • Manning & Standhardt (1986:144) reported H. wyattdurhami from the Moody's Branch Fm (Bartonian) of Louisiana.
  • Ward & Wiest (1990:84) included as ? Hemipristis sp a single tooth from the Piney Point Fm (Early Eocene) of Virginia -- if this were to be the case it would not only be the most northern (NA) range of the species but the earliest report of the genus.
  • Kent (1994: 78-79) noted that H. serra was found it all Mio-Pliocene sediments of the Chesapeake Bay region.
  • Müller (1999: 54) reported as serra, Hempristis teeth from the Old Church Fm. (Oligocene), Virginia.
  • Purdy et al (2001: 142-44) included H. serra as present in Pungo River Units 1-6 (Early-Middle Miocene) and Yorktown Units 1-3 (Pliocene).
  • Parmley et al (2003:169-170) included H. curvatus as from the Late Eocene of Georgia.

    Hemipristis curvatus

    Hemipristis serra

    Other website references

    Heim on Sharks Hemipristis page on the Lee Creek or Belgrade fauna.


    1.   Two dentitions were used preparing these comments, the larger one for the bulla design and the smaller for the tooth-set. The smaller one was used as the basis for the positional comments.

    Selected References

    Agassiz, L. 1843. Recherches sur les Poissons Fossiles, Vol. 3. Contenant l'histoire de l'Ordre des Placoides (Text), Neuchâtel, vii, 1-390, 1-32. Vol. 3. Atlas, 83 plates.
    Case.G., 1980. A Selachian Fauna from the Trent Formation, Lower Miocene of Eastern North Carolina In: Palaeontographica, 171:75-103.
    Case.G., 1981. Late Eocene Selachians from South-Central Georgia In: Palaeontographica, 176:52-79.
    Case.G. and Borodin, P., 2000. A Late Eocene selachians from the Irwington Sand Member of the Barnwell Formation (Jacksonian), WKA mines, Gordon, Wilkinson County, Georgia Munchner Geowiss. Abh.. 39:5-16.
    Chandler, R., Chiswell, K., Faulkner, G. 2006. Quantifying a Possible Miocene Phyletic Change in Hemipristis (Chondrichthyes) Teeth. Palaeontologia Electronica Vol. 9, Issue 1; 4A:14p, | Article or PDF download
    Compagno, L.J. 1988. Sharks of the Order Carcharhiniformes. Princeton University Press, 486 pp.
    Compagno, L,, Dando & M., Fowler, S., 2005. Sharks of the World. HarperCollins, 368 p.
    Dames, W. 1883. Über eine tertiäre Wirbelthierfauna von der westlichen Insel des Birket-el-Qurun im Fajum (Aegypten), Sitzungsberichte der Königlich Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschafter zu Berlin: 129-153.
    Eastman, C., 1904. Pisces. In: Maryland Geologocal Survey - Miocene. John Hopkins Univ Press, Baltimore 543 pp, 135 pls.
    Jordan, David S., 1907. The Fossil Fishes of California with supplementary notes on other species of extinct fishes, in: Bulletin of the Department of Geology, Vol 5, No 7. University of California. pp 95-144.
    Kent, B. 1994. Fossil Sharks of the Chesapeake Region. Egan Rees & Boyer, Maryland, 146 pp.
    Manning, E. and Standhardt, B., 1986. Late Eocene sharks and rays of Montgomery Landing, Louisiana. In: Schiebout, J. and van den Bold, W. (eds), Montgomery Landing site, marine Eocene (Jackson) of central Louisiana:. Gulf Coast Accoc. of Geo. Societies<, Symposium Proceedings pp 133-161.
    Müller, A. 1999. Ichthyofaunen aus dem atlantischen Tertiär der USA. Leipziger Geowissenschafteb, Leipzig, 9/10: 1-360.
    Parmley, D., Cicimurri, D. & Campbell, R., 2003. Late Eocene sharks of the Hardie Mine local fauna of Wilkinson County, Georgia Georgia Journal of Science, 61(3):153-179
    Purdy, R., Schneider, V., Appelgate, S., McLellan, J., Meyer, R. & Slaughter, R., 2001. The Neogene Sharks, Rays, and Bony Fishes from Lee Creek Mine, Aurora, North Carolina. In: Geology and Paleontology of the Lee Creek Mine, North Carolina, III. C. E. Ray & D. J. Bohaska eds. Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology, No 90. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C. pp. 71-202.
    Ward, D. J. and Wiest, R.L., 1990. A checklist of Paleocene and Eocene sharks and rays (Chondrichthyes) from the Pamunkey Group, Maryland and Virginia, USA. Tertiary Res., 12(2) p 81-88.
    White, E., 1956 The Eocene Fishes of Alabama. Bulletins of American Paleontology, 36:156 PRI Ithica, NY p123-151