An exceptionally rare ancient shark fossil, a forerunner of the dogfish endemic in the English Channel, is going under the hammer.

The skeleton of the small reef shark, which swam our ancient seas 96 million years ago, is up for sale for between £20,000 and £30,000.

This Cretaceous fossil of a reef shark, just 32 inches long, is a rare complete example of a Paratriakis curtirostris set within stone, displaying the spine, fins and tail in perfect detail. The fin supports and the head and teeth can easily be seen and it is mounted in a wooden frame.

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The fossil was found in Haquel, Lebanon and comes from the private collection of a British company executive.

It has been studied by the University of Manchester and comes with a letter from a leading British naturalist who describes it as ‘a spectacular fossil’.

The fish is extinct but has links to the modern day dogfish found on the continental shelves and the uppermost continental slopes off the coasts of Norway and the British Isles south to Senegal and in the Mediterranean.

It was a resident of the shallows of the Tethys Ocean which separated Africa, Europe, Indo Australia and Asia.

It is accompanied by a certificate from Fine Fossils attesting to its authenticity.

Daily Echo: The rare ancient shark fossil up for auction

Aaron Hammond of Timeline Auctions, said: “It is exceptionally rare for an authenticated and much studied fossil of this age and quality to come to market. It provides a new insight into our ancient seas and still has a living relative in the dogfish found in British waters to this day.”

The fossil comes from the limestone deposits of Lebanon. Since most of the skeleton of a shark is cartilage, preservation of such details as seen here are uncommon. The fins and basic body outline have also been preserved in wonderful detail.

The sale comes shortly after the airing of a BBC film with Sir David Attenborough about a 2m-long pliosaur that was found in Kimmeridge, Dorset and studied at the University of Southampton.

This fascinating fossil will be on display for two days at the Institute of Directors in Pall Mall on February 26 and 27.

The Timeline Auctions sale concludes on March 5.