By: April Carson
The Megalodon, a colossal and extinct species of shark that lived millions of years ago, is estimated to have grown up to 59 feet in length - an astonishing size three times greater than the largest documented great white shark!
The megalodon, a titan of the ocean that has been extinct for millions of years, was the greatest shark ever to inhabit our waters and one of the biggest fish on record. Its scientific name -Otodus megalodon- fittingly translates to "giant tooth" as its teeth are three times bigger than those of today's great white sharks. Measured by fossilized bones and preserved teeth, scientists have obtained reliable insights into what this grand creature looked like and when it vanished.
The megalodon's diet consisted of large prey, including whales, which it could easily take down due to its massive size and powerful jaws. Studies have shown that the megalodon had an estimated bite force of between 108,000 to 182,000 newtons, making it one of the most powerful animals in Earth’s history.
The megalodon's extinction is still debated, but it is believed to have occurred between 2.6 million and 1.5 million years ago as a result of climate change, competition with other predators, and the rising sea levels that resulted in a decrease in its food supply. It is remarkable to think that this giant creature was once roaming the oceans and that we have only just started to uncover its astonishing facts.
Incorporating optimal linear estimation into their study, a research team from the University of Zurich explored megalodon fossils in 2014. Their findings were eventually published in PLOS ONE and determined that most specimens ranged between 15.9 million to 2.6 million years old - spanning the middle Miocene epoch to the Pliocene epoch. The authors penned that all evidence of the critter's existence finished approximately 2.6 million years back in our recent fossil record - a mere 0.1 million years before when our Homo sapiens forebears made their emergence during the Pleistocene epoch, as reported by the University of California Museum of Paleontology.
The study revealed that the enormous shark - which was estimated to grow up to 18 meters (59 feet) in length and weigh more than 50 metric tons (110,231 pounds) - is closely related to today's great white sharks. It fed on large sea creatures, including whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and other giant marine animals.
Megalodon's demise appears to be linked to rising water temperatures, which restricted their food supply and caused them to become extinct. This is further evidence of the fragility of our planet's biodiversity and a reminder of how critical climate change can be for species' survival.
Although the Zurich study found that just 0.06% of 10,000 simulations revealed a potential for megalodon to still exist today, the experts concluded that this probability was too slight and dismissed any assertions of current survival among these colossal sharks.
In addition to the physical evidence, the megalodon’s extinction is also supported by a wide breadth of fossil records. This includes a sudden decrease in the number of shark fossils found around 2.6 million years ago, which suggests that they died out shortly afterward.
In the absence of any discoveries or evidence, such as fossils younger than 2.6 million years old, scientists unanimously agree that megalodon sharks have been extinct for some time now.
The megalodon shark may not have been as immense as we imagine; the scientific community is divided in terms of its size. Though undeniably a colossal creature, there are still debates on how gargantuan it truly was.
While some conjecture that the fish could grow up to 60 feet (18 meters) according to the Natural History Museum in London, others propose that it may reach a whopping 80 feet (25 m). This is evidenced by Encyclopedia Britannica which has suggested such length based on the size of its teeth.
In addition to their formidable size, megalodon sharks were equipped with equally impressive bite force. This was determined by a team of scientists in 2009 who suggested that the animal’s bite was up to 10 times stronger than that of a great white shark.
The mighty great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) is a force to be reckoned with, growing up to 20 feet long according to Animal Diversity Web. But yet even more colossal than the great white is the whale shark (Rhincodon typus), reaching an incredible 32 feet.
Although sharks don't have bones and their skeletons are made of cartilage, the longest bony fish alive -the giant oarfish- has been known to reach 36 feet in length as reported by the Florida Museum of Natural History. But these lengths pale in comparison to the size of the giant ancient shark, Megalodon.
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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