The megalodon, which went extinct thousands and thousands of years in the past, was the most important shark ever documented and one of many largest fish on file. The scientific identify, Carcharocles megalodon, means “big tooth.” And for good motive: Its large enamel give scientists main clues about what the creature was like and when it died off.
When the megalodon went extinct
Whereas a 2018 fashionable film, “The Meg,” pits trendy people in opposition to the beast, greater than doubtless, the megalodon died out earlier than people developed. It’s tough to pinpoint the precise date that the megalodon went extinct, as a result of the fossil file 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 a lot 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 file, the authors wrote. For comparability, our earliest Homo sapiens ancestors emerged solely 2.5 million years in the past, in the course of the Pleistocene epoch, based on the College of California Museum of Paleontology.
A really small portion of the Zurich examine’s information — 6 out of 10,000 simulations — confirmed a 1 p.c 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.”
Since there was no proof of the monster, together with fossils which are any newer than 2.6 million years in the past, the vast majority of scientists imagine that megalodons are extinct.
The megalodon was a huge creature, however perhaps not as huge as you assume. There are a variety of arguments within the scientific group concerning the animal’s precise measurement. Going solely by the scale of the enamel, some imagine that the fish might develop as much as 60 toes lengthy (18 meters), based on the Pure Historical past Museum (NHM) in London, whereas others assume that about 80 toes (25 m) lengthy is extra doubtless, based on Encyclopedia Britannica. Nonetheless others assume it was a lot smaller. For comparability, trendy nice white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) attain lengths of 20 toes (6 m), based on Animal Variety Internet. Even bigger is the whale shark (Rhincodon typus), which reaches 32 toes (9.7 m). The longest bony fish alive (sharks wouldn’t have bones; their skeletons are product of cartilage) is the enormous oarfish (Regalecus glesne), which has been recognized to achieve as much as 36 toes (11 m), based on the Florida Museum of Pure Historical past. [Related: Oarfish: Photos of World’s Longest Bony Fish]
“Unique calculations enormously overestimated the scale of megalodon,” William Paterson College Professor of environmental science, Marty Becker, a paleontologist who focuses on shark analysis, informed Stay Science. “That is partially associated to the truth that the megalodon fossil file is dominated nearly solely by enamel. Present calculations point out that megalodon could have achieved lengths as much as 10 meters [around 33 feet] and nothing like what’s at present featured in the summertime 2018 film ‘The Meg.'”
The most important megalodon tooth measures round 7 inches (17.eight centimeters) in size, which is sort of thrice longer than these of nice white sharks. That big measurement led historic peoples to theorize concerning the creatures’ origins. For instance, early discoveries of megalodon enamel in western Europe had been regarded as the petrified tongues of historic serpents. Folks known as them ‘tongue stones.’
The enamel are discovered all around the world in nice portions. “Tooth of megalodon are recognized to have a world incidence and are prized amongst fossil collectors for his or her assorted colours, serrated edges and huge measurement when in comparison with different fossil and trendy shark enamel,” stated Becker. “Availability on the web market has devalued earlier fossil collections of megalodon enamel as investments.”
Just like the dinosaurs, the megalodon appreciated heat. Throughout its time, it hunted within the heat, shallow seas that lined a lot of the planet. Megalodon enamel have been discovered on each continent besides Antarctica. Megalodon could have gone extinct when these seas dried up, the ice age started and water was locked up on the poles, based on Discovery. Megalodon both starved or was frozen into extinction.
The megalodon was a top-of-the-food-chain predator. It ate up different huge marine mammals, like whales and dolphins. It might have even eaten different sharks, based on Discovery.
Researchers assume the megalodon would first assault the flipper and tails of the mammals to stop them from swimming away, then go in for the kill, based on the BBC. The megalodon’s 276 serrated enamel had been the proper instrument for ripping flesh.
These sharks additionally had a ferocious chew. Whereas people have been measured to have a chew pressure of round 1,317 newtons, researchers have estimated that the megalodon had a chew of between 108,514 and 182,201 newtons, based on 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, incapability to hunt whales in colder water is believed to be one of many main causes of megalodon extinction.”