Top 10 Facts about the Megalodon

Top 10 Facts about the Megalodon

Top 10 Facts about the Megalodon.

Sharks are some of the most feared creatures on earth, with good reason! After all, they have been known to kill humans or chomp off their arms and legs. They also have big, sharp teeth, a sense of smell so keen they can sniff a drop of blood in the ocean from miles away and an appetite for just about anything that moves. But guess what? Even the great white shark, the most feared of all sharks, is nothing compared to the giant shark that used to roam most of the world’s oceans — the megalodon.

Want to learn more about this prehistoric predator? Here are ten cool facts about the bygone behemoth.



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1. The Largest Shark Ever to Have Lived

Megalodon_scale
Size comparison of Carcharodon carcharias (Great White Shark, 5.2m), Rhincodon typus (Whale Shark, 9.7m) and conservative/maximum estimates of the largest known adult size of Carcharodon megalodon (16-20m), with a human Homo sapiens (1.8m). By Scarlet23 cc3.0

The megalodon was the largest shark ever to have lived, believed to have reached 50 to 70 feet (15.2 to 21.3 meters) long. That’s as long as three great white sharks! It was estimated to have weighed between 53 to 114 short (US) tons (48 metric tons) — equal to as many as sixteen adult male African elephants! Even the juveniles were huge — estimated to be between 13 to 23 feet (4 to 7 meters) long, still longer than a fully grown great white.




2. Giant Teeth

Megalodon tooth size
Tooth of megalodon with ruler for scale by Lonfat

The word “megalodon” comes from two Greek words — megas, meaning “big”, and odont, meaning “tooth”. The megalodon did indeed have giant teeth — five rows of over 270 sharp teeth that could grow over 7 inches (18 centimeters) long and over 4 inches (10 centimeters) wide at the base. The largest megalodon tooth found to date is 7.6 inches (19 centimeters) long.

Only the famous Tyrannosaurus rex and the saber-toothed cats are known to have had consistently larger teeth — the teeth of the T. rex reached 9 inches (23 centimeters) long and the smilodon’s fangs grew up to 11 inches (28 centimeters).


awesome shark


3. Monster Bite

Carcharocles megalodon
Carcharocles (Carcharodon) megalodon,jaw. Image credit: Gunnar Ries Amphibol cc3.0

The movie Jaws should have been about the megalodon. The T. rex might have had bigger individual teeth, but the megalodon had truly gigantic jaws! The largest to date, reconstructed by fossil collector Vito Bertucci, measures 11 feet (3.4 meters) wide and almost 9 feet (2.7 meters) tall. That’s big enough to swallow a whole school bus with room to spare!

Combine a large jaw with giant teeth and what do you get? The most powerful bite in history. In 2008, a group of scientists estimated the bite force of the megalodon to be between 24,000 to 41,000 pounds of force (106,757 to 182,377 Newtons). That’s about ten times stronger than the bite of a great white shark!


4. The Ancestor of the Great White?

Great white shark
Great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) off South Africa. By Hermanus Backpackers cc2.0

Speaking of the great white shark, scientists at one time agreed on its being a descendant of the megalodon, but this has now become a matter of debate. Some believe that megalodons and great white sharks once co-existed, making them something like distant cousins (the megalodon might even have fed on the great white)! Because of this, it has been proposed that the megalodon be moved from Carcharadon (the same genus the great white shark belongs to) to Carcharocles (an extinct genus of giant sharks). The debate regarding the genus classification of the megalodon continues, but those who’d rather stay out of the scientific squabble can easily sidestep the issue, by simply saying C. megalodon, which works for both!


5. Swimming with Giant Sharks

Carcharocles angustidens
4.25″ Tooth Carcharodon angustidens (Syn. Carcharocles angustidens) found in the Edisto River of South Carolina’s Lowcountry. Image credit: Crazyunclejim

The megalodon was not the only giant shark to have cruised the oceans. There were other prehistoric megatooth sharks, such as C. angustidens, which was around 30 feet (9.1 meters) long, and C. chubutensis, which was about 40 feet (12.2 meters) long. There were also the sharks in the genus Otodus, believed to have been 30 to 40 feet (9.1 to 12.2 meters) long. Obviously, they were not as big as the megalodon was, but they were still bigger than today’s great white.


6. The Ocean’s Top Predator

VMNH megalodon
By Karen Carr (http://www.karencarr.com/tmpl1.php?CID=196) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

During its time, the megalodon was at the top of the food chain. It was a whale killer, feeding on sperm whales, humpback whales, bowhead whales, fin whales, minke whales and even blue whales. It also fed on seals, sea lions, giant sea turtles, dugongs, manatees, dolphins, porpoises and smaller sharks (including other megalodons).

Because megalodons had such large teeth and strong jaws, they often went for the tougher body parts like the shoulders, the spine or the rib cage, aiming to crush the vital organs inside. In hunting the large whales, a megalodon went for the fins, biting them off so that the whale could not swim away before the megalodon had a chance to start snacking.


7. Is the Megalodon Still Around?

Megalodon skeleton

Every now and then, there are reports of monster sharks suspected to be megalodons. However, scientists are not convinced. Several studies have been published asserting that the megalodon is extinct, and has been for two or three million years now. If it were still alive, the sharks we know today would likely not be so abundant, nor large whales. They would have been eaten!


8. Why the Megalodon Became Extinct

Jumping Killer whales
Two mammal-eating “transient” killer whales photographed off the south side of Unimak Island, eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska.

Many other prehistoric giant animals have become extinct, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that the megalodon has vanished, as well. What led to its extinction? Scientists cite several factors. One is the cooling of the world’s oceans. Megalodons could not thrive in cold waters, after all, which is why they avoided the polar seas, and preferred to give birth in warm waters. As the megalodons moved to warmer waters, the whales that they loved to eat moved to cooler waters, which made feeding harder for them. Also, the killer whale made its appearance, and eventually filled in the megalodon’s ecological niche.

Today, the killer whale is indeed one of the ocean’s top predators, able to hold a shark still in its jaws so that it cannot move or breathe.


9. A Heap of Teeth…

Megalodon teeth
Carcharocles megalodon collection from the Gatun Formation. Specimens and their respective collection numbers. One specimen (CTPA 6671) was not available to photograph. By Catalina Pimiento, Dana J. Ehret, Bruce J. MacFadden, Gordon Hubbell cc2.5

Most of what we know of the megalodon today we have learned from their fossilized teeth and, wow, are there thousands of them! They have been found around islands all over the world, as far south as New Zealand, as well as in the deep waters far from land, such as in the Mariana Trench of the Pacific Ocean. A few spinal columns have also been found, most notably in Belgium in 1926, consisting of 150 bones.




10. …That Were Once Thought to Be Dragon Tongues

Cretaceous Shark Teeth
Shark teeth (mostly Scapanorynchus) from the Menuha Formation (Upper Cretaceous) of southern Israel. By Wilson44691 cc3.0

For centuries, the teeth of megalodons and other giant sharks were called “tongue stones”, and were believed to be the tips of dragon’s tongues, which turned to stone as soon as they were cut off. They were thought to be a cure for various poisons, and were worn by nobility as good luck charms. It was only in 1667 that Nicolaus Steno, a Danish scientist, studied them closely and found out that they were actually shark teeth.


What do you know?

Think you remember what you’ve read? Try out the Megalodon Quiz!

 


Discovery Networks info on the awesome megalodon.


Want to learn more about this prehistoric predator? Please visit:
Prehistoric Predators — Megalodon Facts!

Sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megalodon
http://www.theworldslargestsharksjaw.com/
http://www.sharksider.com/megalodon-shark/
http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-29743081

To view the complete list of sources, please click here.

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91 COMMENTS

  1. I still think Megalodon is still alive though we don’t know that but that’s what I think this is like a HUGE mystery that I want to know about! I am interested in huge animals and sea life and I want to know more about Megalodon. <People should try and catch big tooth on camera<And if you do THANK YOU!!😉

  2. what if they are just eating something bigger than other sharks and whales its not out of the question he cant go to the bottom of the ocean so something so big as the Megalodon could be possible.

  3. cool / wow

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  4. My opinion……Megalodon is a Massive beast and the maximum of this megalodon feet is 98, 30 meters……we can see this megalodon in many oceans…….But this megalodon up to 2.6 million years ago…….I also research about megalodon….

  5. No one knows if they’re extinct or not!! Everyone has different opinions my opinion is that they are still alive but that’s is just me some people may think differently! 🤗

  6. It did not died by Killer whales!!!!!!!! It died because Hump Backs,Sperm whales and Blue whales moved to to colder waters. NOT BY KILLER WHALES.

    • Yes, the current theory is that the megalodon’s prey moved to colder waters and the megalodon was unable to follow as, unlike the great white, it never evolved endothermy (the ability to artificially raise its body temperature).
      However it is also thought that the megalodon then found itself out-competed by killer whales for the large prey that was left. Killer whales’ social hunting skills worked better than megalodon’s solo attempts.

    • i was like omg at the size of the megalodon shark it is 20 millimeters its teeth is so large it can eat through a boat,ship,building,a car to even 100000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 people

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