It is known as the largest, most massive and most powerful vertebrate predator populating the world's oceans but What is a Megalodon shark?
1) A giant shark discovered
The discovery of the world's largest prehistoric shark has been taking place throughout history:
- Around 70 AD. The population was convinced that shark teeth were objects that fell from the sky during lunar eclipses.
- In the Middle Ages, Europeans strongly believed that megalodon teeth were petrified tongues of snake and dragon. They were used for medicine and worn as pendants.
- The Amerindians in turn also used them as necklaces and tools.
- In 1843, Louis Agassiz a Swiss-American biologist and geologist gave the name megalodon, he was widely known for his involvement in ichthyological classification, including extinct species such as carcharocles (Otodus) megalodon.
- In 2006, the greatest palaeontological discovery of the first complete fossilized skeleton of Carcharodon Megalodon was made by Dr. Klaus Hönninger and his team in Ica, Peru in the Ocucaje desert.
2) Family tree of the largest shark
It was part of the family Lamnidae (one of 35 families of sharks with the great white shark).
But some people in the family Otodontidae have an extinct family of sharks of the order Lamniformes (which includes shark species like the great white shark, and others extremely rare).
It is this latter theory that currently dominates, despite the fact that there are still divergences with regard to its genre (Carcharocles, Procarcharodon, Megaselachus or Otodus).
3) The biggest shark
How do you know what is a Megalodon shark, without mentioning the size of its powerful and large jaw? The Meg had jaws more than 2 m wide for a total length of about 16 meters on average. It was 3 to 4 times bigger than a white shark. It had a height of 15 meters and some could reach up to 20 meters long and weigh up to 50 tons. Some specialists and authors have been able to determine a maximum height of 30m in length, but this figure is considered a little exaggerated.
A) Chiseled teeth
This prehistoric species had chiseled teeth and their size is between 8 and 12 cm long in general. It can measure up to 18 cm!
Vito Bertucci a passionate and renowned collector, has been studying fossil shark teeth for over 20 years. He made a surprising discovery in 2002 when he found a side tooth of more than 18 cm. The largest teeth are those of the upper jaw.
Some people find smaller megalodon teeth (less than 15 cm) on some beaches in the world. In particular, that of Victoria in the south of Australia or on the coasts of North Carolina in the United States.
B) The most powerful jaw of all the animal kingdom
Based on the jaws of current sharks, those of this prehistoric predator could exert a bite force ranging from 110 000 to 180 000 newtons.
The largest reconstruction of the Megalodon jaw in the world was done by Bertucci. It is between 3 m high and 3.30 m wide. It contains 182 teeth, the largest of which reached 18 cm. This jaw comes from the biggest shark whose size was estimated at more than 22 meters long.
4) What was this prehistoric shark feeding on?
His favorite dish was whales as well as marine mammals such as seals, seabird and turtles. Most of the prey was in the open sea, it attacked it near the surface, when it went up, taking advantage of its skin color that made it little visible from the surface. 🐳
The Megalodon shark was able to swim at short speed over short distances like the Great White Shark to rush on its prey from below.
4) Where the Megalodon shark lived?
The geographical distribution of this massive and powerful shark in the world was cosmopolitan. He lived in all the oceans of the planet, mainly in temperate waters. All the fossils of the megalodon found so far have been exhumed in several parts of the world: in Europe, America, Africa, Australia and other parts of the world.
5) How did it go extinct?
A) The largest prehistoric shark, disappeared for millions of years
According to paleontologists, the meg shark appeared about 28 million years ago, before dying out 2.5 million years ago. This information is based on the megalodon fossils now recorded in international databases such as The Paleobiology Database.
B) Cause of it extinction
The main cause of the disappearance of this mega shark could be due to the gradual arrival of an ice age. ❄️
Scientists estimate that nearly one-third of the world's largest marine animals, including 43% turtles and 35% seabirds, died as the temperature dropped. The collapse in the number of organisms at the base of the food chain, which would have resulted in a lack of food for super predators.
The scientific community estimates that this powerful shark would be extinct because of the reduction of its prey whose number would have fallen sharply because of the cooling climate.
C) Extinction date
The exact date of death of the last Carcharocles is not known, but new evidence suggests that it is at least 3.6 million years old. ☠️
The researchers were able to confirm this with the discovery of megalodon fossils, claiming they were present until the end of the lower Pliocene era. That's about 3.6 million years ago. according to their studies, all the previous fossils are questionable. "We used the same set of data as the previous studies, but we carefully checked each occurrence," says Robert Boessenecker, paleontologist at Charleston College.
6) Is Megalodon alive today?
The rumor that this shark is still alive stems from a series of books that inspired screenwriters and mainly the Discovery Channel television channel that greatly contributed to the spread of the myth, by broadcasting two fake documentaries on the meg, in part of its annual Shark Week special. 📺
One of them, Megalodon: The New Evidence (2014) staged a biologist who would have discovered clues of their existence and showed images of an alleged attack off the coast of South Africa. However, it was never really indicated that it was a work of fiction: the biologist was actually an actor, this attack had never occurred and the photos were rigged. As a result, the vast majority of viewers believed it, according to a survey by Discovery.
Surfing the same wave, there are now several videos on YouTube that spread the myth that the mega shark still exist, hidden in the unexplored areas of the oceans. For some, He would be alive and well ...
7) Scientists's review
Although the cause remains uncertain, the disappearance of the species is unanimous among scientists. "There is absolutely no doubt that the megalodon is gone! Says Dr. David Shiffman, a shark conservation biologist at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. "If a shark eating whales 60 feet long still existed, there would be evidence. But there is none! " Indeed, megalodon would have left bite marks on other large marine animals, and one would have found their huge teeth in the bottom of the oceans by the thousands. 👨🏼🔬
An impossible survival in deep water
The "defenders" of the theory that "megalodon still exists" is that 95% of the oceans are still unexplored. But the giant prehistoric shark did not live in deep waters, they lived in shallow coastal areas.
They were not adapted to the depths of the sea and there was no prey for them in these areas. 🌊
No chance, therefore, for scientists, that massive shark still populate the oceans, and as you know scientists know how the meg lived, how it hunted, what it ate, they know perfectly what is a Megalodon shark. Have confidence in them and their works.
8) What is a Megalodon shark in Modern Society?
A) The Mega shark in the movies
The movie THE MEG: a Thriller by Jon Turteltaub released in 2018 with Jason Statham, Bingbing Li, Rainn Wilson.
C) Video games
8) Shark Nation honors the Megalodon!
And you, now you know what is a Megalodon shark. So what do you think about it?
Tell us in the comments!