The Megalodon, also known as one of the largest and most impressive predators to ever inhabit our oceans. This giant shark continues to incredibly fascinate people to this day.
The Megalodon lived millions of years ago and is fortunately extinct in present times. This shark has long been a the great subject of research. But how do we actually know about this giant shark? In our blog, we dive deeper into the discovery of the Megalodon.
The first discovery of the Megalodon
The Megalodon can actually only be found by the teeth left behind. Why is this the case? The Megalodon, like any other marine mammal, consists mainly of cartilage. This naturally decays over the years, especially when we look at millions of years. The teeth, however, are left behind because they are not made of cartilage. So the teeth of the Megalodon, which could sometimes reach 18 cm in length, are the only finds of this colossal giant. The story behind these teeth and their finds is unique. This is because the teeth were also found in ancient times and the texts written about them were often unique. For example, the teeth were seen as teeth or tongues of mythical creatures, such as dragons or giant snakes. These teeth wrld not be identified as shark teeth until the 17th century by Nicolas Steno. At the time, of course, he could not grasp the size of the Megalodon.
Size estimates and the fossil evidence
All that is discovered of the Megalodon are its teeth and, in extremely rare cases, vertebrae. These fossils however scarce when it comes to the animal, reveal a lot about the Megalodon's lifestyle, diet and also its size.
A size estimate: Thanks to the size of its teeth, scientists estimate that a Megalodon could have been as long as 18 metres. Comparing this to its current relative, the great white shark, which could reach 6 metres at most, the size difference is really significant.
Teeth analysed: The shapes, fractures and wear of the teeth can give us a good idea about the Megalodon's diet. Although of course we have to take into account that the teeth have been in the water for millions of years and are polished by the sand, so to speak, but can also get fractures due to the phosphilisation process. The teeth also offer us a view of this shark's powerful bite. We therefore suspect that larger prey such as whales may have been on the Megalodon's menu. Indeed, we can pick up bite marks from skeletons of extinct whales. Scientists may be able to link the Megalodon to these markings.
Bone remains of the Megalodon: It is incredibly rare and I also know of only one vertebra of the Megalodon found. This has greatly helped scientists to further reconstruct the Megalodon. From this, they would have been able to infer what the Megalodon looked like, as well as get an idea of its swimming behaviour.
How did the Megalodon live?
When scientists start comparing fossils with today's modern sharks, they have been able to form a small picture of how the Megalodon must have lived.
Hunting behaviour: The Megalodon was an apex predator and was at the top of the food chain. Its gigantic teeth and powerful jaws indicate an incredibly intelligent hunter which had large prey to its name.
Habitat: The fossils have been found in all oceans suggesting that the Megalodon has been in all major oceans. These teeth have been found from the shallow coast to the deeper sea.
Reproduction and life cycle: Little is known about the reproduction of the Megalodon. What we do know is that the Megalodon gave birth to its young in shallower waters. This obviously ensured that the pups were better protected from other Megalodon and other predators. How do we know this? Smaller Megalodon teeth are more often found in coastal waters. These teeth could belong to the Megalodon's former pups.
The extinction of the Megalodon
One of the most sought-after questions, though, is: How and why did the Megalodon go extinct? Scientists have several theories about this:
- Climate change: This has been a very strong possibility, considering the Megalodon have lived until the Ice Age. Changes in temperatures and food availability may have been too great for this colossal shark to survive.
- Food competition: This may be related to climate change because there were multiple predators looking for food, food left for warmer areas and often animals that were already evolving with respect to the ice age.
The Megalodon in contemporary culture
The Megalodon lives on today in films, books and our imaginations. This fascination helps us continue to explore the giant shark, as well as stimulate interest in palaeontology. It keeps the memory of this mighty creature alive.
We at Megalodontand.nl remain fascinated by this powerful yet mysterious creature. By studying the teeth and other remains, scientists have opened a hatch to another era. Naturally, we find this immensely interesting and are happy to share this information with you.