The megalodon, which went extinct thousands and thousands of years in the past, was the biggest shark ever to prowl the oceans and one of many largest fish on document. The scientific identify, Carcharocles megalodon, means “big tooth,” and for good motive: Its huge tooth are virtually 3 times bigger than the tooth of a contemporary nice white shark. The megalodon’s fossilized bones and tooth give scientists main clues about what the creature was like and when it died off.
When the megalodon went extinct
Whereas the favored 2018 film, “The Meg,” pits trendy people towards an infinite megalodon, it is really greater than possible that the beast died out earlier than people even developed. However it’s troublesome to pinpoint the precise date that the megalodon went extinct as a result of the fossil document is incomplete.
In 2014, a analysis group on the College of Zurich studied megalodon fossils utilizing a method known as optimum linear estimation to find out their age. Their analysis, revealed within the journal PLOS ONE, discovered that many of the fossils date again to the center Miocene epoch to the Pliocene epoch (15.9 million to 2.6 million years in the past). All indicators of the creature’s existence ended 2.6 million years in the past within the present fossil document, the authors wrote. For comparability, our earliest Homo sapiens ancestors emerged solely 2.5 million years in the past, throughout the Pleistocene epoch, in keeping with the College of California Museum of Paleontology.
A really small portion of the Zurich examine’s knowledge — 6 out of 10,000 simulations — confirmed a 1% probability that these big sharks might nonetheless be alive. That probability appears fairly slim, and the researchers wrote within the examine that they rejected “fashionable claims of present-day survival of C. megalodon.”
As a result of nobody has found any current proof of the monster — not even fossils which are any youthful than 2.6 million years outdated — scientists agree that megalodons are lengthy gone.
How large have been megalodons?
The megalodon was a huge creature, however possibly not as large as you assume. There are a number of arguments within the scientific neighborhood in regards to the animal’s precise measurement.
Going solely by the scale of the tooth, some consider that the fish might develop as much as 60 ft lengthy (18 meters), in keeping with the Pure Historical past Museum (NHM) in London, whereas others assume that about 80 ft (25 m) lengthy is extra possible, in keeping with Encyclopedia Britannica.
For comparability, trendy nice white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) attain lengths of 20 ft (6 m), in keeping with Animal Variety Net. Even bigger is the whale shark (Rhincodon typus), which reaches 32 ft (9.7 m). The longest bony fish alive (sharks don’t have bones; their skeletons are fabricated from cartilage) is the enormous oarfish (Regalecus glesne), which has been recognized to achieve as much as 36 ft (11 m), in keeping with the Florida Museum of Pure Historical past.
Associated: Oarfish: Photographs of World’s Longest Bony Fish
“Authentic calculations tremendously overestimated the scale of megalodon,” Marty Becker, a William Paterson College Professor of environmental science who research shark paleontology, advised Reside Science. “That is partially associated to the truth that the megalodon fossil document is dominated virtually completely by tooth. Present calculations point out that megalodon might have achieved lengths as much as 10 meters [around 33 feet] and nothing like what’s presently featured in the summertime 2018 film ‘The Meg.'”
The biggest megalodon tooth measures round 7 inches (17.8 centimeters) in size, which is sort of 3 times longer than these of nice white sharks. That enormous measurement led historical peoples to theorize in regards to the creatures’ origins. For instance, early discoveries of megalodon tooth in western Europe have been regarded as the petrified tongues of historical serpents. Folks known as them “tongue stones.”
The spectacular tooth are discovered everywhere in the world in nice portions. “Tooth of megalodon are recognized to have a worldwide incidence and are prized amongst fossil collectors for his or her assorted colours, serrated edges and enormous measurement when in comparison with different fossil and trendy shark tooth,” Becker stated. “Availability on the web market has devalued earlier fossil collections of megalodon tooth as investments.”
The place did megalodons stay?
Just like the dinosaurs, the megalodon preferred heat. Throughout its time, it hunted within the heat, shallow seas that lined a lot of the planet. Megalodon tooth have been discovered on each continent besides Antarctica. Megalodon might have gone extinct when these seas dried up, the ice age started and water was locked up on the poles, in keeping with Discovery. The shark both starved or was frozen into extinction.
What did megalodon eat?
The megalodon was a top-of-the-food-chain predator. It ate up different large marine mammals, like whales and dolphins. It could have even eaten different sharks, in keeping with Discovery.
Researchers assume the megalodon would first assault the flipper and tails of the mammals to forestall them from swimming away, then go in for the kill, in keeping with the BBC. The megalodon’s 276 serrated tooth have been the proper instrument for ripping flesh.
These sharks additionally had a ferocious chew. Whereas people have been measured to have a chew drive of round 1,317 newtons, researchers have estimated that the megalodon had a chew drive between 108,514 and 182,201 newtons, in keeping with the NHM.
“Megalodon co-evolved with whales as a principal meals supply,” Becker stated. “As mammals, whales had the flexibility to thermoregulate and migrate towards colder waters of the poles. Whereas the precise thermoregulatory capabilities are a subject of present examine, incapacity to hunt whales in colder water is believed to be one of many main causes of megalodon extinction.”
This text was up to date on Could 17, 2021 by Reside Science Reference Editor Kimberly Hickok.