Otodus megalodon

At some point in your life it is likely you have heard of the famous Megalodon. The Meg is a a 2018 film portraying this creature, grossing over $500 million in theaters. This massive, prehistoric fish was the largest shark to ever swim the seven seas and is arguably one of the most notable prehistoric creatures to ever exist. 

The Discovery

Megalodon was first described in 1835 by geologist and teacher known by the name Louis Agassiz. The original taxonomy classified this shark as Carcharodon megalodon. This lasted until the late 1990s when its new information came to light, allowing scientist to reclassify the genus as Otodus megalodon.

Many scientists still believe that Megalodon was related to the modern white sharks based on characteristics such as serrated teeth. However, a study conducted in 2012 provided data in support of two different lineages, placing Megalodon in Otodontidae (megatooth sharks), and modern white sharks in Lamnidae. Because of this it is likely both lineages developed similarities independently of one another. This is known as convergent evolution. One example is how bats and insects have both developed wings used for flight.

 

 Louis Agassiz in classroom

Megalodon was the last living member of its genus as it likely had distinctive features not seen in great whites such as a shorter nose, flatter jaw, and disproportionally longer pectoral fins. Its lineage spanned from 105 to 2.6 million years ago, beginning with Cretalamna appendiculata, and concluding with Otodus megalodon, living from 23 to 3.6 million years ago (Early Miocene to Pliocene). Now it is believed that our beloved great white sharks may have contributed to the extinction of the mighty Megalodon.

 

The Facts

Megalodon lived in shallow tropical and temperate waters across the globe. It is likely it travel through interconnecting waterways that separated the Americas and Europe from Asia during the middle of the Miocene Epoch. This is one theory why fossil teeth are found all over the world.

Megalodon Geographical Distribution

It is estimated that females grew the largest, upwards of 66 feet in length and weighing nearly 150,000 pounds. Megalodon literally translates to "large tooth" and its mouth would have contained nearly 300 teeth at any given time, over 40,000 throughout its life. Megalodon used these teeth to feast on larger prey including dolphins, whales, and other sharks. Based on recovered fossilized teeth, researchers have estimated that Megalodon would have had a bite force of 138 times stronger than a human. Their bite diameter could reach upward of 10, many time larger than any other shark.

 

Comparative Size Representation 

 

 Model Megalodon Jaw - American Museum of Natural History

 

Yes, Megalodon is Extinct

The planet entered a global cooling phase during the end of the Pliocene. This change in climate is believed to have devastated the oceanic ecosystems, killing off almost half of all sea turtles and a third of all sea birds. This drop in temperature would have caused a chain reaction, affecting even the top predators. However, by 2016 new studies suggested that changes in temperatures did not have a sole significant impact of Megalodon's demise. Losing ideal hunting grounds due to seaway separation, paired with an increase of competition from the modern great white shark and killer whale, proved too much for the Meg.

No, Megalodon is not still alive in the deepest parts of the ocean. Its body is was not equipped to handle the significant water pressures found at those depths. Also, the lifeforms found that deep would not be enough to sustain the hunger of a Megalodon, leading to starvation.

 

The Truth Behind Why Megalodon Went Extinct | Encyclopaedia Britannica - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Own your own Megalodon Tooth!

Megalodon teeth have been found on every continent in the world with the exception of Antarctica. The fossils of these massive sharks hold a special place in our hearts here at Mineralogy. Most of the teeth in our collection have been found by a good friend of the company, pulled right out of the ocean floor off the coast of Wilmington, North Carolina. However we occasionally have teeth from other locations such as South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Indonesia. We clean, prep, and photograph all of our Megalodon teeth specimens right here in the galleries.

Browse our Otodus megalodon teeth here!

 

References

Britannica - Megalodon

Newsweek - A Look Back at Megalodon Discoveries From The Last 115 Years

Wikipedia - Megalodon