The Bearsden Shark was discovered by Stan Wood, a fossil hunter who became famous in the world of palaeontology.
There are different stories about the finding close to where he lived. Locally it is said that young boys brought to him a piece of rock which he recognised as being fossil bearing. However, in his paper in The Geological Curator, 1983, he says "I discovered exciting rare fossils in predominantly marine shales exposed in a stream, the Manse Burn" . Stan had recently moved into the adjacent Baljaffray housing estate and some local people think he moved there being aware of the local geology which offered opportunities to a palaeontologist.
Whichever way, Stan was then employed by the Hunterian Museum as a temporary YOP [Youth Opportunities Programme] Supervisor and in 1981 he obtained permission from the local Council to do a trial dig. The Council then sanctioned field work which provided for a major excavation of 30m by 15m in area and 5m depth and diversion of the water from the Burn. In 1982 the work was carried under Stan as field manager with assistance from two YOP workers and many volunteers including Glasgow University students and local residents. Local school children were encouraged to join in on Wednesdays during the summer school holidays and large numbers were given their own chance to find and retrieve fossils from excavated material put aside for them to work on. Funding for the work was provided by the Nature Conservancy Council with the Hunterian Museum providing direction and support through the YOP scheme. The excavation was backfilled and the site landscaped in the same year.
Excavation Site 1982
Excavation Site 1982
The 1982 dig found and recovered from the shale many fossilised remains of shrimps, fish and sharks but the find that was to cause international excitement was a 1 metre long shark fossil identified as a member of the Stethacanthidae family of prehistoric sharks. This shark fossil is regarded as the most complete skeleton ever found and is referred to as such in papers not only in the UK but in the USA where most Stethacanthidae have been found in Montana. The shark skeleton is of cartilage, not bone, but the Bearsden Shark is so uniquely well preserved that even muscle and blood vessels and the last meal in its stomach could be seen. An interesting feature of the Stethacanthidae is the dorsal fin which is shaped like an anvil with spikes on the top surface and is found only on males.
The Bearsden Shark was so unique that it was given the new genus and species name Akmonistion (because of the anvil fin feature) and Zangerli (after Rainer Zangerl who wrote papers on the Stethacanthus shark finds in America).