About the Megalodon Shark
Megalodon is a massive species of shark that lived about 15.9 to 2.6 million years ago, during the Cenozoic Era (middle Miocene to end Pliocene). It is one of the largest known marine predators to ever swim in our oceans. Unfortunately, due to Oceanic cooling and sea level drops, along with a decline in the food supply, these sharks just could not survive and died out during the late Pliocene Era.
Megalodon means "big tooth." They are also referred to as the "megatooth" sharks. Megalodon adults were basically a giant version of a great white shark. Even though very few skeletal remains have been found, the Megalodon's teeth along with bite marks from them, leave us with an exciting evolutionary story about this massive predator.
Since this megatooth shark was one of the top predators of its time, how big did it get? Some of the biggest megalodon shark teeth ever found have a recorded slant length of over 7 inches. The most common slant length is between 3 and 5 inches. With that said, it is very difficult to say how big the megalodon shark actually got.
In the past, lengths of up to 100 feet (30.48 Meters) have been speculated. Today, this length has been drastically reduced. With the help of jaw reconstruction from associated teeth, paleontologists have calculated some possible size estimates. Some of these estimates gave the Megalodon a maximum length of around 52 feet (16.5 Meters), while other estimates were a tad bit lower, around 42 feet (12.8 Meters). There have been reports of several skeletons found in the deserts of Peru with estimated lengths of 70 feet (21.3 Meters), but they have not yet been confirmed. The estimated weight of this animal is around a whopping 48 tons!
With an animal getting to the size that the megalodon did, it leaves a very good question. What did this massive megalodon shark eat? Fossil evidence suggests that this shark mainly preyed upon larger prey such as whales, dugongs, and other large creatures that inhabited the oceans during the megalodon’s reign. How do we know that these sharks fed on these animals? Pieces of bone are found by fossil hunters daily and there are times when these bones will show some sort of predatory markings on them. Below, you can see that this piece of whale rib bone has some clear serration and gash marks on it.
Researchers suggest that the megalodon shark had an estimated bite force of between 24,000 to 40,000 pounds. That's enough bite force to crush a car with ease.
Here are a few bite force estimates from other predatory species to compare:
- Great White Shark - 4,100 psi
- Tyrannosaurus Rex - 12,800 psi
- Dunkleostus - 1,200 - psi
For years, researchers and other scientists were convinced that the modern-day great white shark evolved from the megalodon shark, and were from the same family. Over time, that theory has changed. Today, the accepted theory is that the megalodon shark evolved from Otodus obliquus. Below is a picture of the whole evolutionary chain, starting from Otodus obliquus and ending with C. megalodon.
Photo Credit: Kendall Borchers