The megalodon shark (aka the megatooth shark, monster shark, and giant white shark) is one of the most mysterious and elusive prehistoric animals globally. At an estimated length of 45 – 60 ft. long, it also happens to be the largest prehistoric shark to have ever existed and one of the most powerful predators on earth. In fact, due to its large size, this shark was given the name megalodon, which in translation means “big tooth.”
The massive 7-inch teeth that have been recovered from the now-extinct megalodon can be observed in various museums and aquariums as a true testament to this animal’s ginormous size.
Through archaeological findings and research, it is believed that the megalodon became extinct somewhere around 1.5 million years ago for unknown reasons. However, scientists and researchers have claimed numerous theories for its possible extinction, which we’ll explain in further detail later in this article.
To generate these extinction estimates, researchers have studied the fossil records of these enormous sharks using state-of-the-art technology and fossil reading techniques to estimate the age of the fossil bones that have been identified, such as megalodon teeth and backbone.
Appearance and Behavior
The beginning of life on this planet (when it comes to animals) is believed to have started in and around the earth’s oceans. In fact, over 7o percent of the world today is covered in water. Despite advances in technology and our understanding of the ocean, countless oceanic animals remain hidden and undiscovered.
Although simple cells and bacteria have been on this earth much longer than animal life (3.6 billion years), it is believed that fish began inhabiting the earth’s oceans around 500 million years ago.
Simple animals began inhibiting the earth 600 millions years ago followed by fish 100 million years later
During these early years of animal life, the ocean was inhabited by fish, squid, sea animals, and predatory sharks that continued to grow in size and eventually became quite enormous.
As evolution continued to evolve, so did the world’s animals/predators, and eventually, animals such as the megalodon began dominating the food chain.
The earliest records of the megalodon (according to fossil records) have been calculated to be between 25 – 28 million years old, giving this large predatory shark a fairly long uninterrupted existence on this planet!
Because the megalodon became extinct around 1.5 million years and their bones have largely decayed over many millennia, it has proven somewhat difficult for researchers to identify the appearance and behavior of the megalodon truly. Therefore, it is only possible to theorize what the megalodon truly looked like and how it hunted, swam, and thrived in the ocean.
Using technology and our understanding of shark anatomy, researchers and scientists have put together numerous theories and models for how the megalodon lived, hunted, survived, and thrived in the ocean.
For starters, the megalodon had 3 meter long jaws that were layered with rows of triangular serrated teeth that can measure up to 7 inches long. These fossil teeth are rare and may be found near warm coastal waters or embedded in various rock formations where they have been fossilized.
Even today, the megalodon’s massive shark teeth are one of the largest teeth of any known animal, rivaled today by only a few animals with extremely long tusks.
When it comes to the megalodon, the combination of large sharp triangular teeth combined with immense jaw strength made these aquatic animals one of the most fearsome predators to have ever inhabited the ocean.
Given that their large sharp teeth were so big and, dangerous researchers believed that these teeth were used for hunting some of the largest living oceanic animals of its time, such as large prehistoric whales.
In addition to observing and studying the megalodon’s teeth, researchers have also looked at teeth scars from the bones of potential animals they’ve hunted to identify their diet and hunting methods.
At a length of up to 60 ft. long, the megalodon has been recorded as the largest known shark to have ever existed. Original estimates of this massive beast were assumed to be around 90 – 100 ft. long due to limited technology and a lack of understanding regarding the animal’s jaw structure and dental construction at the time, which led to larger than realistic features that were later debunked as more information became available.
Although evolutionary changes have occurred throughout the history of the megalodon’s existence, many of their characteristics remained similar, even when compared to today’s sharks.
This means that if you observed a megalodon from prehistoric times, you would easily identify this animal as a shark rather than mistake it for another type of animal/predator.
The megalodon was originally believed to be 90 – 100 ft. long, however new information revealed that they were closer to 45 – 60 ft. long when fully grown.
Megalodon R&D (Research & Development)
While most of the megalodon’s bones have decayed over time, making it difficult to reconstruct the megalodon’s body, one of the few parts of the megalodon that has fared well over the millennium is its teeth which are protected by a layer of enamel. This enamel coating has helped preserve the shark’s teeth which would have otherwise decayed along with most of its other remains.
Other than identifying the shark by the protected enamel teeth that have been excavated and recovered, there are a few recovered pieces of the backbone (particularly the spine) that have been found and safely recovered as well.
Using these fossil remains, researchers and scientists have used technology and their understanding of shark anatomy to reconstruct how the megalodon looked and behaved.
Because of the predatory nature of sharks, these powerful hunters have developed the ability to replace broken and lost teeth throughout their entire lives. In fact, a shark may replace its teeth as much as 20,000 times over a period of 25 years.
This constant tooth replacement may have also been apparent in the megalodon, which may explain partially why researchers have been able to find and identify their teeth more than any other part of the megalodon’s body.
As one row of teeth begins to need replacing, another row moves forward to fill in the missing teeth, and the teeth that are lost may float to sea and become embedded in nearby rocks or sand. If megalodon did, in fact, have similar tooth replacements as their modern-day relatives do, we are unsure of how frequently their teeth may have been replaced.
When using teeth to reconstruct the megalodon, one issue found is understanding how many teeth it possessed in its mouth and identifying where the teeth belonged. In other words, early researchers lacked a dental map of the shark’s teeth formation and placement. Without an accurate understanding of this, trying to reconstruct the mouth and jaw of the megalodon is quite a difficult task.
Understanding how many teeth the megalodon has in its upper and lower jaw and its position is critical to achieving an accurate representation of the megalodon’s jaw structure.
Fortunately, recent findings have led to at least one account of a researcher identifying over 70 teeth that belonged to a single megalodon, making it significantly easier to identify the megalodon’s anatomical features and jaw construction.
It is estimated that the megalodon’s jaw measures between 7 – 8 ft. tall and 8 – 9 ft. long when the shark is fully grown and the jaw fully extended. However, the shark may grow to be even larger than the estimates stated here.
In 1926 M. Leriche excavated and discovered a vertebral column of a single megalodon containing 150 vertebral centra making it a huge finding for historical megalodon researchers who were trying to better understand the appearance and behavior of this apex shark.(Video) All Your Megalodon Shark Facts In One Video
In addition to using teeth and fossil bones to reconstruct the shark, researchers have also looked at the modern-day shark to identify the potential appearance and behavior of the megalodon. One shark in particular, “the great white,” has been repeatedly observed and researched as it appears to come closest to what the megalodon may have looked like during its prehistoric existence.
Similarities in terms of teeth shape and serration make this shark one of the closest observable animals to the prehistoric megalodon. Although their teeth may look very similar from a distance, there are some notable differences in the dentition setup and structure of the two animals’ teeth.
There are also differences found in the backbones of prehistoric megalodon compared to those of the great white shark leading some researchers to believe that there is no close correlation or ancestral history between the megalodon and the great white.
Despite this debate, many researchers often look to the great white for ideas on the appearance and hunting methods of the megalodon. Did the megalodon look like and behave like the great white is a question that will likely continue to be asked for many years.
While both of these animals are predatory hunters and well respected in their own rights, there is numerous difference between the great white shark and the megalodon with one of these primary differences having to do with size. The great white shark is believed to reach a maximum length of around 20 ft. long with a maximum weight of 4,000 lbs.
On the other hand, the megalodon is believed to have reached lengths of between 45 ft. – 60 ft. long with a weight of 50 tons or more, making it larger than the whale shark(the largest shark in existence today)and heavier than a malesperm whale (the largest toothed whale in existence today).
This major difference in size may have had other implications that required the megalodon to be physically different from the much smaller and lighter great white. According to research, even the newborn baby megalodons were fairly large, measuring 6 – 11 ft. long at birth.
In terms of longevity, the estimated lifespan of the megalodon is around 20 – 40 years. However, a healthy and fit megalodon may live even longer.
Lastly, the megalodon appears to have been a warm water species that preferred subtropical climates while giving birth. The warmer waters tended to provide these sharks with abundant food sources. Evidence suggests that these sharks may have inhibited both coastal and offshore waters and may have migrated further from the coast as they grew older to maintain their diet.
Towards the end of their extinction, large environmental changes and ocean cooling can be found occurring throughout various parts of the world, which may have caused the megalodon to seek warmer environments or face possible death.
Nursery areas further suggest this idea as recovered fossils appear to be most common in subtropical coastal waters. It is also possible that these sharks may have been homeothermic (warm-blooded) like the mako shark or great white.
The advantage of being a homeothermic animal is that they would have maintained their temperature in varying waters; however, traveling in hypothermia-inducing waters can quickly lead to death for homeothermic animals as their body is not designed to handle environments below a certain temperature.
Seeing how sharks do not have a thick layer of fat or blubber to keep them warm, they are much more exposed to cold environments when compared to whales and other marine mammals.
In addition to this, homeothermic animals tend to require larger quantities of food to maintain their body temperature; therefore, a warm-blooded megalodon would have had to sustain a large diet to keep itself warm. If their food supply (whales and other large animals) decides to travel to colder waters, it lowers the available resources the megalodon needs to survive.
Unfortunately, it cannot be confirmed whether the megalodon was a warm-blooded animal as homeothermy is not a common characteristic of most sharks.
Diet and Hunting Methods
The megalodon is assumed to have had a diet that consisted of consuming fish, sea turtles, dugongs, and large whales, among other ocean life and marine mammals. Unlike today’s sharks, the megalodon’s large size and power made it the apex predator of its time and allowed it to hunt pretty much anything and everything it wanted to in the ocean.
Adult megalodons were known to hunt some of the world’s largest oceanic prey. While young baby sharks may not have consumed some of the larger prey their parents ate, they still hunted other large animals such as dugongs which proved to be slower and less agile than the larger whales their parents hunted.
In fact, it’s quite possible that baby megalodon hunted in coastal waters as it provided them with plenty of smaller prey to hunt while the adults hunted further offshore where they could hunt larger animals.
When it comes to hunting methods megalodon used to capture their prey, it is believed that the megalodon may have used similar methods of tearing its prey apart as the modern-day great white shark. However, its hunting methods were more diverse than the great white.
This often involves taking a large bite onto its prey with its large, sharp, triangular-shaped serrated teeth and viciously shaking and thrashing its head from left to right to tear the flesh and bone of its prey.
The specially designed teeth combined with the constant pulling and shaking of the shark’s head made this predator an extremely dangerous foe in the water.
As stated earlier, these massive animals were also capable of tremendous bite strength, and bite tests performed by researchers estimated that this animal had a bite force of 24,000 – 41,000 lbs. making it extremely effective and deadly as an ocean predator. In addition to the megalodon’s powerful bite, this beast could use its size and weight to overpower its prey and cause serious damage.
When it comes to attacking their prey, some of the hunting methods these large beasts used to capture their food may include biting and thrashing to tear the flesh off of their prey, striking their prey extremely hard from the side or bottom to injure it (possibly breaking the animals back/spine), attacking the tail, flippers or flukes to prevent their prey from being able to swim or escape, swimming beneath their prey to ambush it by surprise and grabbing the helpless animal with its teeth and lunging out of the water to disorient and immobilize its prey.
Theoretically, the megalodon used its bottom jaw and teeth to anchor itself onto its prey while using the top jaw and teeth to repeatedly bite down on the flesh using its flexible upper jaw to separate the flesh using a raking motion to maximize the wound size and damage to its prey.
As far as how quickly the megalodon swam, the top speed of the megalodon is unknown; however, researchers think that it reached speeds of at least 20 mph, which helped it outrun or keep pace with its prey. These large sharks may have consumed anywhere from 1,300 – 2,700 lbs. of food daily to maintain their energy. When you’re as large as a megalodon (and potentially warm-blooded), you can’t survive without hunting significant amounts of food.
Fighting the megalodon
While the megalodon was the apex predator of its time, researchers believe that it may have been attacked from time to time by other animals in the ocean that we’re able to defend themselves and fend off an attack from a megalodon. In fact, at least one animal was known to put up quite a fight when attacked by a megalodon, and this animal is known as the Squalodon.
The squalodon is an extinct species of toothed whale that existed during the same period as the megalodon. These prehistoric whales were intelligent and were believed to hunt/live in pods (groups containing several whales), which provided them with better opportunities to capture prey and gave them an advantage when attacked by a megalodon or other large predatory animal. What the squalodon lacked in size, it made up for in numbers.
In addition to traveling in groups, squalodons also possessed long beaks with triangular serrated teeth designed for biting and tearing. This allowed the toothed whale not only to be able to consume a wide range of foods but also defend itself if necessary.
When a megalodon attempted to attack a squalodon, others believed that others moved in to attack the megalodon and wound it rendering the large shark defenseless, wounded, and weak. The megalodon may have successfully attacked and killed a squalodon but not without being injured itself.
Lastly, observations of the squalodon’s skull appear to show the existence of a prehistoric echolocation system that may have helped these toothed whales identify food and potential predators from a distance.
If these animals did indeed possess an advanced echolocation system, they may have used this to orchestrate defensive procedures and attacks to protect themselves and wound potential predators. Unfortunately, little is known about the squalodon. Even less is known about other potential animals that may have been able to fight off or even seriously injure the massive apex megalodon.
Today’s shark predators
Over the course of millions of years, sharks have changed dramatically in terms of size and, in some ways, in terms of the foods they consume. Unlike prehistoric sharks such as the megalodon, today’s predators aren’t known for hunting large whales, dugongs, or giant sea turtles.
Instead, they’re known for consuming smaller fish as the primary bulk of their diet. However, some sharks may also attack sea lions, seals, and other small marine mammals.
Part of the reason sharks may have lost some of their mass has to do with evolutionary changes that made it easier for sharks to consume smaller quantities of food, making it easier for them to survive without facing food shortages.
Prehistoric sharks such as the megalodon needed to maintain a pretty hefty diet to maintain their massive body; therefore, they needed a diet that included large fish, whales, and other large animals.
However, many of the sharks that exist today can thrive by consuming much smaller food and lower quantities than their prehistoric relatives.
Being smaller provides sharks with several advantages such as being able to maintain their food supply more easily, facing less competition for food which allows them to give birth to large numbers of babies without diminishing their own supply of prey, and being able to adapt better to climate changes and other environmental factors.
In fact, two of the most common theories related to why the megalodon became extinct have to do with food shortages (they consumed a lot) and changes in the earth’s climate/habitat.
While the media often glorifies sharks as vicious killing machines it is estimated that 95% of shark species alive today do not pose a threat to humans.
Related or not? That is the question
As researchers continually use the great white as a reference point for the megalodon regarding determining what the megalodon looked like and how it hunted, there are growing arguments about whether these two species are closely related.
Given the fact that the megalodon and great white are both apex predators and have shown some similarities in the shape and serrations in their teeth, some researchers believe that there may have been some close associations between the two species.
Reconstruction of the megalodon’s appearance often tends to mimic some of the features of the great white shark. In fact, research performed on the calcification patterns of the great white shark’s vertebrae suggests that the great white may have been closely related to the megalodon. However, not all parties agree that the megalodon and great white are closely related.
Researchers that believe the megalodon and great white are not closely related point out that upon close inspection of the teeth of the two species, the serrations are differentiated between the two animals, and the jaws appear to show distinct differences among the two species as well.
It has been pointed out that some of the oldest fossil records found on the great white predate 4 -16 million years which suggest that the great white (or its prehistoric relative) coexisted with the megalodon and therefore was a separate species.
Looking at the historical features of the old and modern-day great whites, some researchers believe that one of the great whites’ closest ancestral family members is actually the mako shark and not the megalodon. Unfortunately, these debates and arguments have made it difficult to determine the relationship between the two species. Our limited knowledge of the megalodon makes it hard to come to a concrete yes or no decision.
In either case, researchers often rely on the great white as a reference point to determine the appearance and behavior of the megalodon as limited information on this shark has required some interpretation and theory rather than cold hard facts.
Changing the history books
While large sharks such as the megalodon were known as the apex predators of their time, things have changed. Sharks are still one of the world’s most effective hunters in the ocean. However, today they are not only hunters but also hunted.
Although attacks may not often occur, large predators such as the killer whale have been known to hunt sharks when they are hungry, and other forms of prey are not available. In fact, numerous cases have been observed where killer whales (these marine mammals are actually dolphins) have been known to successfully attack and immobilize sharks to render them defenseless as the killer whales move in to kill.
Sperm whales have also been observed with shark contents found in their stomachs, suggesting that these large whales may occasionally consume sharks when other food sources are unavailable or accidentally consume sharks while also consuming other prey. This isn’t to say that sharks are no longer able to take on marine mammals.
While attacks appear to be sporadic, there are cases where a large predatory shark may attack a small dolphin or marine mammal in an attempt to wound and kill it. These attacks aren’t always successful because dolphins have numerous advantages that make them hard to capture.
For starters, dolphins often travel in groups that protect them from potentially dangerous predators. Dolphins are also highly intelligent, agile, fast, and possess echolocation making them hard to catch and even harder to kill.
On the other hand, Sharks aren’t known for making intelligent decisions and may attack prey that is well defended without considering the consequences. Sharks don’t hunt in organized groups, either. Therefore, they are often left to hunt for food by themselves unless other sharks in the area are interested in attacking the same meal.
These attacks are much different from those found in dolphins that can use echolocation to identify other dolphins in the group, strategize, and collaborate to defend themselves or isolate prey. In some ways, you can say the tables have turned or at least become more balanced among sharks and cetaceans(whales, dolphins & porpoises).
Sharks aren’t as powerful or large as they once were, and marine mammals have become extremely intelligent and well adapted to protect themselves from being attacked by predators.
Why the megalodon may have become extinct
When it comes to determining why the megalodon became extinct, no one really knows what happened. Numerous theories have been proposed to explain the possible extinction of this species which include:
- Being unable to deal with climate change
- Food shortages
- Food migration
- New competition
Research of climate cooling and the lack of megalodon bones being found in colder areas suggests that the megalodon may have declined in numbers due to their inability to survive in cold environments. This evidence is further observed because the megalodon appears to have been much less abundant (if not absent) in cold climate regions.
Ocean cooling, the formation of glaciers, and declining sea levels may have all played a role in the eventual elimination of the megalodon.
Another potential reason the megalodon species may have become extinct is food shortages. During earlier prehistoric times, the diversity of whale species was much higher than it is today. In fact, it is estimated that there were around 20 different genera of whales in existence during their prime compared to only 6 genera living today.
This suggests that changes in the oceanic environment combined with cooling and the extinction of numerous genera of whales may have ensured the megalodon’s own extinction. Because megalodon also consumed fish, they may have turned to cannibalism as their food supplies continually dwindled, speeding up the extinction efforts of their species. After all, sharks are actually a predatory species of fish.
While some of the megalodon’s food supplies may have become extinct over time, other species may have become migratory to maintain their own life and stability. Assuming the foods they ate began to migrate, it would cause megalodon to experience food shortages during certain times of the year or permanently as their primary food sources migrate away from the warmer waters.
As stated earlier, the megalodon preferred inhibiting warm environments and may have had difficulty surviving in non-subtropical waters; therefore, it may have faced food shortages when its prey began to migrate away to other environments.
Again this was likely caused by climate changes during the Pliocene and Pleistocene era, where significant cooling and ice formations began to lower the global temperature. Seeing as how modern-day whales have developed thick layers of blubber to deal with cooler climates, it’s possible that they stood a much better chance of surviving in these colder climates as they migrated to their new habitat.
A fourth theory often proposed to explain the possible extinction of the megalodon has to do with facing competition from new competitors. As the megalodon continued to struggle with changes in the ocean’s environment, other species were provided more opportunities to flourish and consume some of the prey that megalodon once relied on for its own survival.
The new competition further hindered the megalodon’s ability to find food. Its inability to thrive in cooler climates meant this shark species was very limited in its ability to sustain a stable diet and/or lifestyle.
Putting it all together
While each of these theories has some merit of its own, scientists and researchers often believe it was a combination of these theories that led to the megalodon’s death. The cooling of the ocean and changing structure of the ocean’s habitat combined with food shortages, migration, and competition all played a role in reducing the megalodon populations, which eventually caused the species to become extinct.
Skepticism, Myths, and Hoaxes
This part of the article will explore the claims regarding the megalodon’s existence today and the arguments made to debunk these claims. Over the years, there have been numerous myths, stories, and hoaxes about the recent appearances of the megalodon. The most common information used as “potential” evidence of the megalodons existence include:
- Photographs and videos
- Personal stories and sightings
- Recent findings (10,000 – 15,000-year-old Megalodon teeth or just a hoax?)
One of the most commonly brought-up arguments regarding the possible existence of the megalodon in today’s oceans has to do with images and video. A handful of photographs and/or videos have been observed by “researchers” who have made claims that these pictures/videos show possible evidence of the megalodon’s existence in recent years.
Unfortunately, these photographs are often old, low quality, and only show a single body part such as a fin or tail, which does not provide substantial evidence of its existence.
As far as videos of the megalodon are concerned, the evidence appears just is limited regarding quality, quantity, and proof. In fact, many of the videos out today largely focus on talking about the handful of images that have been “acquired” rather than displaying actual videos of a megalodon.
Megalodon sightings/personal accounts
Recounted stories from people in various parts of the world claiming to have witnessed a live megalodon have also been reported for decades. These stories often take the place of megalodon sightings which are generally (but not always) seen by fisherman that is out hunting fish in local waters.
In fact, there are at least a handful of stated accounts and claims made over the last 150 years of potential megalodon sharks infesting their local waters; however, as with the photographs, the evidence is minimal and based on personal opinion rather than hard science or facts.
In recent years there’s even been a few documentary/docufictions from highly reputable sources suggesting the idea that the megalodon may still exist. One of the most recent and debated docufictions of recent times is Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives.
Despite a few small disclaimers about the story, many researchers, scientists, and viewers felt that the show was or appeared to be a false depiction of evidence of the megalodon’s existence. Aside from this, there have been numerous stories and articles on television and on the internet that lend themselves to the idea of the megalodon’s existence.
Recent findings of physical evidence regarding the existence of a recently living, breathing megalodon is minimal, if not non-existent.
In fact, only one known claim of a “possible” recently found megalodon tooth (possibly dating between 10,000 – 15,000 years old) is said to have been recovered from the British survey ship HMS Challenger according to our research. However, the only information we’ve gathered from this claim comes from various indirect websites and not sources.
Other than this claim, there haven’t been any known solid physical components (bones or body parts) of a megalodon shark found to have existed in recent years.
Furthermore, we have no evidence that the British survey ship HMS Challenger and its team have even made these claims. It appears that many of the more reputable websites on the web have not made these claims either or even mentioned this finding in their information on the megalodon.
Is the megalodon alive or dead?
With numerous claims being made about the megalodon’s existence, why do so many researchers and scientists believe that these statements are nothing more than a form of entertainment or attention?
From what has been observed so far (minus the myths and hoaxes), it seems very unlikely that the megalodon would be swimming around in our oceans today. Let’s take a deeper look at why the megalodon is likely an extinct species.
There are several reasons for the likely extinction of the megalodon species, which we’ll explain shortly. However, you can think of megalodon sightings the same way people view Bigfoot, theChupacabra,or the Loch Ness Monster. They are all considered legends and believed by some to exist today. However, no one can truly prove their existence.
Much of the evidence supporting the claims of spotting one of these legendary animals are often very limited, weak, and does not provide enough information to confirm the existence of their species. The lack of bone fragments/fossils and DNA, insufficient findings of carcasses consumed by these wild animals, and the lack of indisputable video/photographic proof make it extremely difficult (if not impossible) to prove they truly exist.
Given the fact that researchers can identify the age, characteristics, and diets of dinosaurs and megalodon sharks that have become extinct millions of year ago, one would think that evidence of the Bigfoot, Chupacabra, or Loch Ness Monster would be more substantial, especially given the technology and photographic/video recording devices we have at our disposal available today.
If you look at the most common theories for why the megalodon became extinct, it becomes quite clear that these issues would still exist today and that the only way the megalodon could survive is if it went through significant evolutionary changes.
Climate/habitat changes, competition for resources and food, and changing migration patterns of prey are all important factors that the megalodon would have to adapt to if it were to survive in the world today.
Perhaps our own imaginations, desires and interests to believe that the megalodon is secretly inhibiting our oceans is what drives us towards the possibility of its current existence, despite compelling evidence that suggests otherwise.
Could the megalodon continue to live if it evolved, and how much would it be able to evolve over a relatively short period of time to survive today? These are the types of questions one has to ask when trying to determine whether or not the megalodon would be able to live in our oceans.
While not everyone agrees on these questions/answers, it is likely that for the megalodon to survive in today’s world, it would likely have to significantly reduce its overall size to maintain its food supply and thrive in the modern ocean. The megalodon may also have to change its primary food sources to make it easier to sustain its energy.
After all, many of the prey they hunted 28 – 1.5 million years ago have become extinct or have become the ancestors of evolved species.
Given that 1.5 million years isn’t a lot of time on the evolutionary side, the number of physiological changes and adaptations the shark would have to develop to survive in this time can only be hypothetical.
Diet and competition
When you look at some of the oceans largest animals, such as baleen whales and the whale shark, for example, you can see that these large animals are filter feeders and consume large quantities of small fish and krill as well as other forms of small prey as the primary source of their diet, not large whales or dolphins.
The ability to consume large swarms of small prey or plants rather than consuming large animals becomes a significant advantage for today’s top predators, especially since these small animals and plants have the ability to survive in varying climates and reproduce at fairly high rates, which makes it easy for them to maintain a more stable food source.
If the megalodon existed today, it would likely live in warm subtropical climates where it’s easier for them to thrive and survive. However, they would likely consume large quantities of marine mammals if they managed to maintain their large size and diet. If this were the case, the megalodon would likely have left evidence of its existence from the carcasses of the food is consumed.
The only other option the megalodon would have to hide its existence is to dramatically change its diet towards consuming fish and other small prey that wouldn’t leave any evidence. This would likely be quite difficult for the megalodon as it typically requires a large diet (which includes whales) to survive and thrive.
The megalodon’s subtropical environmental preference also means that they would likely inhibit warm waters all year long. If there were any substantial populations of megalodon living in these subtropical environments, then they would likely end up competing for food and kill off all or most of their prey in a relatively short time since large animals such as whales, dolphins, and dugongs take much longer to reproduce and only give birth to one “generally” or two offspring at a time.
In addition to leaving evidence of partially consumed carcasses, the megalodon would have also left skeletal bones and teeth of its own that could be identified and observed by researchers who extensively studied the megalodon’s history.
The only “confirmed” fossil records observed from these large predatory animals are their prehistoric teeth and some backbone from an estimated 1.5 million years ago.
Another factor that would have to be considered is that these large sharks would have to deal with the changing climates and varying seasons. The formation of large ice caps, atmospheric changes, and various biodiversity differences in ocean habitat over the last several million years mean that the megalodon’s habitat and range would have been significantly reduced and altered.
Seeing as how they tend to prefer warm temperate climates, the biodiversity and habitat changes that have occurred over the last 1.5 million years (or longer) would further limit where these large predators can live and what types of food sources are available them.
If this large shark relied on the warmer waters to survive, then it would likely be struggling today, and assuming they had a lifespan of 20 – 40 years, they would have to reproduce on a fairly consistent basis to maintain its existence, which means there would have to be numerous megalodons inhabiting the world’s oceans today. If they do not reproduce at least once every 40 years, the entire species can be eliminated in one generation.
Another point that can be brought up regarding their warm habitat preference is that water cools the deeper you dive, which means that it’s quite likely these sharks would have a limited diving depth to prevent them from getting too cold. This suggests that the megalodon would have to remain at depths where humans would likely observe and identify this species.
Given its large size, it would be quite difficult for the megalodon to hide its presence for over 1 million years. Lastly, the megalodon’s diet of whales and other marine mammals would be seriously challenged during migration periods where whales are known to migrate away from the warm tropical regions as they move to cooler grounds to feed and replenish their blubber supply.
When you look at the amount of water on our earth, it quickly becomes apparent just how vast the ocean is and how much it remains to be explored. In fact, based on the volume of water here on earth, various estimates about how much of the ocean we’ve actually seen have been made, with researchers stating that only 5% – 10% of the ocean has actually been discovered.
Given these facts, we can carefully assume that we have just touched the iceberg of the kind of mystery the ocean holds. There have been a few interesting findings regarding oceanic animals and sharks in recent years.
These findings neither confirm nor deny the possible existence of the megalodon in today’s era as we’ve stated several strong reasons for the shark’s extinction; however, the information is still fascinated and perhaps a reason why so many people are still enamored by the idea of the megalodon’s existence.
The coelacanth is a prehistoric species of fish that was thought to have gone extinct millions of years ago until it was discovered off the coast of South Africa in 1936 and brought to the world’s attention Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, A South African museum official. This was followed later by the first capture of a live coelacanth in 1998 in Indonesia.
Before this, the only known fossil records of these scarce fish were from prehistoric bones dating back hundreds of millions of years. The fact that these fish remained unidentified since the beginning of humanity has left some to question the existence of other un-rediscovered prehistoric species such as the megalodon.
While this may be considered evidence of the possible current “hidden” existence of the megalodon shark, it is important to point out a couple of facts.
First, the megalodon is a massive shark that would have likely left evidence of its existence either from the carcasses of the food it consumed or because of its large size, which would have left more recent fossil evidence from bones and teeth.
Second, from everything that is known about the megalodon, it appears that they preferred warmer climates and did not dive extensively deep for their food. Hence, it is likely that they (or more recent fossils) would have been observed by ocean researchers many years ago.
The megamouth shark is another recently discovered and rare species of shark. This deepwater shark was discovered in 1976 off the coast of Kaneohe, Hawaii, when it became trapped in a U.S. sea anchor. Since this discovery, the megamouth shark has continued to remain fairly elusive, with observations of the shark being sporadic. In fact, only a few live videos of the shark have ever been recorded and several infrequent sightings.
Little is known about the ancestral history or behavior of the shark. Still, it is known that this species is a filter feeder and can reach lengths of up to 16 ft. or more, suggesting that fairly large ocean animals can remain hidden despite our current technology and understanding of the ocean.
When you think about it, even with our most advanced technology, we have been unable to reach depths that come anywhere close to the bottom of the deepest oceans, so our understanding of what lies beneath our feet is barely known.
While discoveries of these and other ocean animals prove little to nothing about the possible “current” existence of the megalodon, it provides a reminder of just how little we actually know and understand about the earth’s ocean and the animals contained within it.
Megalodon Facts and Figures
From what we’ve gathered on the megalodon, we have been able to come up with some likely megalodon facts or at least a highly educated hypothesis regarding the features and behavior of this apex predator. Some of the most relevant facts about the megalodon include:
1) At lengths of 45- 60 ft. long, the megalodon is considered the largest known shark to have ever inhabited the earth, with the 40 ft. whale shark being known as the largest living shark today.
2) It has also been estimated that the megalodon measured 1 ton of weight for every foot is measured in length, suggesting that this beast may have weighed 40 – 60 tons or more when fully grown.
3) The megalodon had massively sharp serrated teeth that have been measured at lengths of over 7 inches long, making it one of the fiercest animals known to humanity.
4) Observations of the megalodon’s teeth and matching scars found on the prehistoric bones of whales have confirmed this shark to be a carnivorous predator that hunted whales as part of its diet.
5) While the megalodon was an apex predator, it was not impervious to being attacked itself. In fact, it is believed that species such as the squalodon were highly sophisticated and able to take on (or at least wound) the megalodon when one of its pod members was being attacked or threatened.
6) In recent years, the discovery of over 70 megalodon teeth and 150 vertebral centra (each belonging to one specimen) have been recovered, providing researchers with lots of evidence regarding information about what the megalodon was like during its prehistoric existence on earth.
Through the numerous megalodon facts and figures that have been recovered, scientists, researchers, and historians have been able to study the megalodon in great detail; however, much of our understanding of this creature remains elusive and up to interpretation based on more recent shark observations.
If there is one thing that we can say about the megalodon, this amazing shark stood out from the crowd and dominated the habitats it lived in.
The megalodon is one of the most ferocious and powerful sharks to have ever inhabited the earth. Its large size, sharp teeth, and massive bite made it an apex predator allowing it to attack and consume some of the largest whales of its time.
While its true appearance and behavior remain a mystery, researchers and scientists often look to the great white for inspiration and clues about how this amazing animal looked, lived, and hunted.
Compared to modern-day sharks and marine mammals, there is no question that the megalodon could continue to dominate the ocean if it still existed.
Since the first correct identification of a megalodon shark tooth was observed in 1667 by Nicolaus Steno, researchers have been trying to piece together an accurate representation of the megalodon.
Prior to Nicolaus Steno’s discovery of the megalodon’s shark tooth this object was believed to be the remains of petrified dragon and snake tongues.
Given the technology that we have at our disposal and the recovery of fossil fragments, the megalodon’s extinction is estimated to have occurred around 1.5 million years ago.
Over this long extinction period, the decay of most megalodon fossils (minus its teeth and some backbone) has made it difficult to pinpoint certain aspects of this large creature.
In recent years fisherman, some researchers, and other individuals that have taken to the ocean have claimed that they’ve either seen photos or possible live accounts of a megalodon inhibiting the ocean today; however, from a scientific and informative perspective, there is no solid evidence suggesting that this apex predator has existed in over 1 million years.
Global climate changes, habitat developments and reformations, potential increases in competition, necessary food sources becoming extinct, and newly formed migration patterns for existing food supplies are all highly plausible factors that may have contributed to the extinction of the megalodon species.
What are 3 facts about the megalodon? ›
FUN FACTS. A megalodon's bite could crush a car. The largest megalodon tooth ever discovered was about the length of a TV remote. Megalodon had a bite force at least three times stronger than T.How long did megalodons live? ›
Megalodon was a long-lived animal. Scientists think that it lived for more than 100 years! Scientists think this because when paleontologists find fossilized vertebrae of Megalodon, they can determine the age of the animal when it died.What killed the first megalodon? ›
—Cold waters may have killed the megalodon shark: Around 3.6 million years ago, as Earth entered a period of global cooling and drying, megalodons went extinct, according to the Natural History Museum.Did megalodons live before dinosaurs? ›
The dinosaurs died out about 66 million years ago. Megalodons came later. The oldest megalodon fossils are from the Miocene Epoch, which began 23 million years ago.What year megalodon died? ›
Extinction of a mega shark
We know that megalodon had become extinct by the end of the Pliocene (2.6 million years ago), when the planet entered a phase of global cooling. Precisely when the last megalodon died is not known, but new evidence suggests that it was at least 3.6 million years ago.
Global water temperature dropped; that reduced the area where megalodon, a warm-water shark, could thrive. Second, because of the changing climate, entire species that megalodon preyed upon vanished forever. At the same time, competitors helped push megalodon to extinction – that includes the great white shark.Who killed all the megalodons? ›
A study of the ocean giant's fossil teeth suggests it had to compete for food with another ferocious predator, the great white shark. The battle for diminishing stocks of whales and other prey may have pushed the megalodon to extinction three million years ago.What did megalodons eat? ›
Its humongous size allowed it to eat some of the largest mammals, such as dolphins, dugongs, sea lions, large fish, turtles, and even whales. However, not all Megalodon sharks could eat such big mammals. The smaller ones relied on smaller prey like big fishes and turtles.Are megalodons dinosaurs? ›
Was the megalodon shark a dinosaur? Although megalodons existed many millions of years in the past, they can't truly be considered dinosaurs, who died out around 66 million years ago. This means the two never coexisted.Is A megalodon Dead? ›
Since these fictional documentaries, where science was removed and fiction was inserted are fairly popular, many people now believe that megalodon is still alive. The answer to the megalodon question is a resounding NO. Megalodon went extinct around 3.5 million years ago.
How old was the last megalodon? ›
It has been thought that megalodon became extinct around the end of the Pliocene, about 2.6 Mya; claims of Pleistocene megalodon teeth, younger than 2.6 million years old, are considered unreliable.Could a megalodon still exist? ›
As mentioned, megalodons went extinct an estimated 1.6 million years ago. But some people are not satisfied with this and are convinced that they might still exist. Unfortunately, some documentaries (that used fake footage) have many people completely convinced that they're still hiding in the ocean.What is the biggest megalodon ever found? ›
This data suggests that mature adult megalodons had a mean length of 10.2 metres (about 33.5 feet), the largest specimens measuring 17.9 metres (58.7 feet) long. Some scientists, however, contend that the largest forms may have measured up to 25 metres (82 feet) long.How was megalodon born? ›
According to new research, the pups of the Megalodon shark (Otodus megalodon) are larger than most humans when they're born. This suggests that they hatched in the womb and were born live - and, like modern sharks that give birth to live young, grew by eating their unhatched siblings in utero.How fast can a megalodon swim? ›
The team found that megalodons could hit a cruising speed of over three miles an hour, Dr. Pimiento said, much faster than the 33 other sharks they surveyed. Among existing sharks, the fastest cruising speed belongs to the salmon shark, which can manage about two miles an hour.How much is a megalodon tooth? ›
To give you a general price range for commercial grade (has some defects) Megalodon teeth. 2-3” teeth will typically be in the $20 to $60 range, 3-4” teeth will fall into the $50-100 range, 4-5” teeth the $100-200 range, 5-5 ½” teeth $200-400, etc.Where did megalodons live? ›
The megalodon lived in most regions of the ocean (except near the poles). While juveniles kept to the shores, adults preferred coastal areas but could move into the open ocean. The most northern fossils are found off the coast of Denmark and the most southern in New Zealand.Is there a 40 foot shark? ›
The second biggest shark in the world is the basking shark
While they don't get quite as large as whale sharks, the largest one ever reliably measured was 12.27 metres or just over 40 feet long. This is enough to net them the title of the world's second-largest shark.
Internet rumors persist that modern-day megalodons exist – that they still swim around in today's oceans. But that's not true. Megalodons are extinct. They died out about 3.5 million years ago.What animal can eat a megalodon? ›
Mature megalodons likely did not have any predators, but newly birthed and juvenile individuals may have been vulnerable to other large predatory sharks, such as great hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna mokarran), whose ranges and nurseries are thought to have overlapped with those of megalodon from the end of the Miocene and ...
Is A megalodon bigger than a Blue Whale? ›
The Megalodon weighs in at upwards of 50-70 tons, measuring a span of up to 60-70 feet in length. By contrast, the Blue Whale tips the scale at around 100-110 tons and tops lengths of up to 100 feet. Who Wins on Size? It's pretty obvious that the Blue Whale is the bigger apex predator in this fight.Has anyone saw a megalodon? ›
As of yet, no one has seen a Megalodon, also known as a Megatooth shark, which reportedly went extinct around 2.58 million years ago, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.How many did megalodon eat? ›
How much did it eat? Based on comparisons of it's body size and likely behavior, an adult Megalodon shark may have needed up to 2,500 lbs of food per day. That's like eating 1 ½ cows per day!How big is a megalodon tooth? ›
Megalodon teeth can be up to 7 inches long and were specialized for feeding on large, fleshy prey, such as whales and dolphins.Do megalodons lay eggs? ›
Although these animals produce eggs, they don't lay them. Instead, the young hatch while still in the female's body and are born as miniature adults. This is known as ovoviviparity.Did megalodon eat squid? ›
megalodon — like modern great whites — ate many different things, from orcas to squid.Do megalodons eat each other? ›
June 22 (UPI) -- Megalodons, believed to be the largest species of shark that ever lived, were big enough to eat just about any animal they wanted -- and were possibly cannibalistic -- scientists say in a study published Wednesday.Did megalodon have a skeleton? ›
So far we've only found teeth and vertebrae of megalodons. Like other sharks, most of their skeleton is made from cartilage which doesn't preserve well in the fossil record.What is the biggest shark alive? ›
The largest shark alive is a whale shark, according to the Smithsonian. It is also considered the largest fish in the world, says the Natural History Museum. Whale sharks can reach 60 feet in length, says Smithsonian, and on average, these fish weigh 20.6 tons, according to livescience.com.Who found the first megalodon? ›
The Institute of Paleospine Sciences of the Chinese Academy discovered the prehistoric giant shark-Megalodon, which was lived 290 million years ago in the Yangquan area of Shanxi for the first time.
How old is a megalodon tooth? ›
The tooth came from the upper left jaw of a megalodon that was probably 45 to 50 feet long and lived about 15 million years ago, Godfrey says.Did the megalodon survive the Ice Age? ›
megalodon thrived during the Miocene and Pliocene epochs 23–2.5 million years ago and likely went extinct as glaciers began to dominate the planet around 2 million years ago. Fossils of O.Is Godzilla a shark? ›
The 6.7-foot shark, dubbed “Godzilla Shark,” is thought to have lived around 300 million years ago. The unknown species was given the nickname Godzilla shark or dragon shark because of its huge jaw and the sharp spines on its dorsal fins.Does the black demon shark exist? ›
No physical evidence has been found that would prove the creatures existence, although believers often point to the half-eaten carcasses of whales that sometimes wash ashore in the area.What if the megalodon was alive today? ›
What are the chances that megalodon is still alive? Simply put, none. If megalodons were still alive, there wouldn't be any water sports in the ocean as everyone would be too frightened to get in! The seas would also be stripped of larger life, including dolphins, sea turtles, and smaller whales.What is bigger megalodon or Titanic? ›
No, the megalodon was approximately 20 m long. This is significantly shorter than the titanic at 269 m in length.Who is bigger than a megalodon? ›
When it comes to size, the blue whale dwarfs even the largest megalodon estimates. It's believed blue whales can reach a maximum length of 110 feet (34 meters) and weigh up to 200 tons (400,000 pounds!). That's more than twice the size of even the largest megalodon size estimates.Was megalodon bigger than dinosaur? ›
Comparison With Modern Day and Extinct Animals
Megalodon has also been found to be far larger than the gigantic theropod dinosaurs such as Spinosaurus, T-Rex, as well as the large ocean going marine reptiles such as Basilosaurus, and Tylosaurus.
That's how the researchers concluded this megalodon was 6.6 feet (2 meters) long at birth. That makes it the largest live-born baby shark in history, Shimada said.How smart is a megalodon? ›
While it is solitary, it still had moderate Intelligence due to having nurseries. Their huge size gives them great Defense and very low Stealth.
How hard can a megalodon bite? ›
Paleontologists have done some sort of biomechanical modeling based on teeth we've found, and they calculated the bite force would be about 40,000 pounds per square inch, which is by far the highest bite force ever calculated for any animal, living or extinct.What's the hardest megalodon? ›
The Shrouded Ghost: Spawns extremely rarely, and it is known to be the rarest and hardest Megalodon to Kill.How big is megalodon poop? ›
💩 That's right; scientists have apparently found petrified portions of their feces, too! One report from a site in South Carolina documents coprolites (the fancy science term for fossilized poo) of a large shark, the largest of which totaled around 5.5 inches long.What are scary facts about megalodon? ›
Megalodon remains suggest that the ancient sea creature could grow to around three times the size of a great white. Their minimum size was approximately 40 feet and it's believed they could reach 59 feet at their biggest. Terrifyingly, experts have found razor-sharp shark teeth over 7 inches in length.Is a megalodon 70 foot? ›
Based on the jaw reconstruction, Megalodon was estimated to be 30 metres (98 feet) long.How big is a megalodon head? ›
A 52-foot megalodon shark likely would have had a head of about 15 feet long, a dorsal fin of about 5 feet tall, and a tail about 12 feet high.How old is megalodon tooth? ›
Fossils attributed to megalodon have been found dating from the early Miocene Epoch (which began 23.03 million years ago) to the end of the Pliocene Epoch (2.58 million years ago). The word megalodon, a compound of Greek root words, means “giant tooth.”Has anyone killed the megalodon? ›
Megalodon from 'The Meg' was killed off by great white sharks, study suggests | The Independent.Who is stronger T Rex or megalodon? ›
Well, it depends on where they fought. If they fought in the water, megalodon had the advantage being a water dinosaur and being able to survive better underwater. If they fought on land, T-Rex would have the advantage being a land dinosaur and able to breathe air.What was the first shark on earth? ›
Cladoselache is regarded as the first "true shark". It lived 380 million years ago and it still retained a few characteristics of its fishy ancestors. It had a fish-like head, seven gills instead of five like most sharks, and its body was longer and less muscular than the sharks we see today.
Do sharks lay eggs? ›
There are over 500 species of shark living in waters around the world and the majority give birth to live young. The remainder are oviparous, meaning they lay eggs. Around 40 to 50 different shark species live permanently in or regularly visit the waters surrounding Britain.Do sharks every sleep? ›
Some sharks such as the nurse shark have spiracles that force water across their gills allowing for stationary rest. Sharks do not sleep like humans do, but instead have active and restful periods.What animal killed the megalodon? ›
The great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) may have wiped out the giant megalodon (Otodus megalodon). But scientists may have miscalculated megalodon's time of death by about 1 million years.Who ate the megalodon? ›
Mature megalodons likely did not have any predators, but newly birthed and juvenile individuals may have been vulnerable to other large predatory sharks, such as great hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna mokarran), whose ranges and nurseries are thought to have overlapped with those of megalodon from the end of the Miocene and ...