Press Release - March 22, 2011

Nearly nine feet tall, largest shark jaws set ever assembled offered in June at Heritage Auctions

Fossil hunter Vito Bertucci spent lifetime seeking fragments of 90-foot long prehistoric predator Megalodon sharks to assemble the massive jaws; died while diving for teeth in Georgia

DALLAS, TX — The largest set of prehistoric shark jaws ever assembled, measuring 11 feet across and almost nine feet tall, is estimated to sell for $700,000 or more in Heritage Auctions’ Signature® Natural History Auction on June 12. It took famed fossil hunter Vito "Megalodon" Bertucci almost 20 years to find fragments of the ferocious Megalodon shark in the rivers of South Carolina, and 16 years to assemble the massive jaw.

Bertucci, of Port Royal, South Carolina, died in 2004 in Georgia while diving for prehistoric shark's teeth.

"This was Vito's legacy,” said his brother, Joey Bertucci, who consigned the huge jaw set to the auction. “He loved it. He dragged it around everywhere. This was something he just had a vision to do, and it took him a lifetime of collecting to be able to build it."

Megalodon was the largest predator that ever existed on Earth, measuring 60 feet in length or more.

"The Megalodon was a shark that grew to the length of two city buses and preyed on whales and other sharks,” said David Herskowitz, Director of Natural History Auctions at Heritage. “With jaws that size, and a hugely voracious appetite, you or I would be no more than an hors d'oeuvre for this monster."

The jaw set is composed of 182 fossil teeth, some over seven inches long, displayed in a composite mold. It is currently on display at the Dallas Museum of Nature and Science and will remain there until it is moved nearby to the auction venue in Fair Park in early June.

The majority of the teeth in this specimen were personally collected by Vito Bertucci in the rivers of South Carolina, who spent more than 20 years finding the exact right teeth for this amazing fossil. Examples of Bertucci’s work are on display in the American Museum of Natural History, the Houston Museum and the Baltimore Aquarium and have been featured in National Geographic World magazine and on the National Geographic Channel. He opened and operated a shark museum in Port Royal, South Carolina before passing away in October of 2004 while diving for Shark Teeth in South Carolina.

The first descriptions of Megalodon teeth originated in the Renaissance period of Europe, with the teeth being interpreted as the petrified tongues of dragons and snakes; called glossopetrae. In 1667, Danish naturalist Nicolaus Steno recognized them as shark teeth and mentioned them in his texts. Swiss naturalist Louis Agassiz named the fossil shark Carcharodon megalodon in 1835. The species megalodon meant "big tooth" in Greek, while the species was placed in the Carcharadon genus based on the similarity of the teeth to those of the Great White shark.

Megalodon ruled the temperate and warm waters of all the oceans between 25 and 1.5 million years ago. They hunted in a variety of environments including coastal zones, lagoons, and deep water. Megalodon teeth have been found on every continent with the exception of Antarctica and have even been found in the Mariana trench. Several fossil sites including the Calvert Formation of Maryland and the Bone Valley Formation of Florida represent nursery sites where live young were born in safe and prey-rich waters.

The maximum size of the Megalodon has been of much debate; cartilage rarely fossilizes and therefore no complete shark has ever been found. However, near-complete sets of dentitions have been found, which allows for accurate reconstructions of large jaws. Based on the larger sizes of teeth that have been found, the largest Megalodons were likely greater than 60 feet in length, with possible giants growing over 90 feet long.

After more than 20 million years of dominance, Megalodon went extinct around 1.5 million years ago during the Pleistocene. A combination of cooling sea temperatures and a reduction in the number of prey species contributed to the Megalodon's extinction.

The jaws are part of what is sure to be an unprecedented happening in the annals of Natural History auctions, as the June 12 event also features no less than four dinosaur skeletons - “The Fighting Pair” Allosaurus and Stegosaurus, a near complete Triceratops, and a complete duck-billed Maiasaurus – along with dozens of important prehistoric treasures, at the Tower Building in Dallas’s Fair Park.

Heritage Auctions, headed by Steve Ivy, Jim Halperin and Greg Rohan, is the world’s third largest auction house, with annual sales more than $600 million, and 500,000+ online bidder members.

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