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Stay Out of the Water: Does a Prehistoric Shark Still Live in the Ocean?

Stay Out of the Water: Does a Prehistoric Shark Still Live in the Ocean?

There is said to be a shark that is scarier than the one from the movie Jaws which is as large as the biggest whale. But this isn’t a monster from a sci-fi movie, it’s real. This kind of shark lived in the oceans thousands of years ago and it's possible that it still lives in the deepest waters even today.

Specialists call the ancient shark Carchardon megalodon or Carchalocles megalodon. It’s official name in literature is C. megalodon. This shark’s monstrous jaws were much bigger than the length of a human body. If it hunted humans, we would have been like small fish for it. Megalodon was perhaps the biggest hunter in the oceans and seas. Its name comes from Greek and means ''big tooth''.

Man sitting on Carcharodon megalodon jaws. Restoration of fossil shark. Carcharodon megalodon. Basal Miocene South Carolina.

Man sitting on Carcharodon megalodon jaws. Restoration of fossil shark. Carcharodon megalodon. Basal Miocene South Carolina. ( Public Domain )

The gigantic shark lived about 23 to 2.6 million years ago, since the early Miocene to the end of the Pliocene period. Researchers suggest that it was a cruel hunter which needed to eat more than any other animal of the Cenozoic Era.

A Shark Which Was a Real Monster

Fossils of megalodon have discovered in many parts of the world for example: Cuba, Jamaica, Australia, Puero Rico, Malta, India, Canary Islands, Denmark, and Antwerp in Belgium. A fossil of its jaw discovered in North Carolina, USA has shown how impressive and horrific the animal was. According to Patrick J. Schembri and Staphon Papson, the megalodon was around 24-25 meters (79 – 82 ft) long. However, it is usually said that it wasn't bigger than 18 meters (59 ft). Different teams of researchers also conclude that it could have been a little bit smaller or bigger than these measurements.

Size comparison of Carcharodon carcharias (Great White Shark, 5.2m (17.1 ft.)), Rhincodon typus (Whale Shark, 9.7m (31.8 ft.)) and conservative/maximum estimates of the largest known adult size of Carcharodon megalodon (15-20m (49.2-65.6 ft.)), with a human (1.8m (5.9 ft.)). ( Scarlet23/CC BY SA 3.0 )

Nevertheless, the largest known megalodon specimen had a tooth which was 184.1 millimeters (7.25 in) in length. The bite force of the megalodon was at least six times stronger than that of a great white shark.

Megalodon was also very heavy. An analysis of about 175 discovered specimens suggests that they could have been between 48 metric tons to 103 metric tons. Its jaws were not only huge, but also very dangerous. The megalodon had to eat tons of fish per day – making it one of the greatest killers in the history of the Earth.

Carcharocles megalodon collection from the Gatun Formation. Specimens and their respective collection numbers. One specimen (CTPA 6671) was not available to photograph.

Carcharocles megalodon collection from the Gatun Formation. Specimens and their respective collection numbers. One specimen (CTPA 6671) was not available to photograph. (Catalina Pimiento, Dana J. Ehret, Bruce J. MacFadden, Gordon Hubbell/ CC BY 2.5 )

Renaissance records describe discoveries of giant fossil teeth, but show that the people imagined that they had to belong to huge dragons and snakes. In 1667, Nicolaus Steno from Denmark recognized the teeth as a shark's. In his book titled The Head of a Shark Dissected he presented the first illustration of the tooth of megalodon.

The depiction of a shark's head by Nicolaus Steno in his work The Head of a Shark Dissected.

The depiction of a shark's head by Nicolaus Steno in his work The Head of a Shark Dissected. ( Public Domain )

Is the Scary Shark Still Alive?

Some people believe that they've seen megalodon during the 20th and 21st century. There are several pictures of possible megalodon, but many of them are altered. A few years ago, Discovery Channel showed a picture which shocked many scientists. The description said that it was a photograph taken in Cape Town in 1942 by a photographer from a Nazi U-boot submarine.

The picture showed the submarine and what may be a huge shark behind the ship. It was also presented in a movie which was released in August 2013. However, according to several journalists, all of the ''scientists'' who appeared in the movie were probably actors who were paid to support the megalodon story. The producers received a lot of criticism, but the megalodon tale became fascinating for millions of people once more. It also resurfaced the question if the huge sharks still live in the oceans.

According to Catalina Pimiento, a shark researcher studying megalodon at the University of Florida, whose statement was published by National Geographic, a possible factor in the megalodon's decline could have been the rise of competitors such as killer whales. “Being social hunters, it has been suggested that they out-competed megalodon's hypothesized solitary hunting style. Great sharks today, like megalodon in the past, are apex predators impacting communities via top down control,” Pimiento wrote. “As we change the oceans, we also trigger cascading effects on entire ecosystems. Understanding the past—how this shark interacted in its community—can aid in making policy for marine systems.”

Perhaps a species which evolved from the megalodon could be the great white shark - Carcharodon carcharias. Yet it is very difficult to find out the evolution path of the megalodon to the great white shark. Researchers also cannot guess if the great white shark is the only species which has its roots in the genes of the giant prehistoric shark.

Great white shark.

Great white shark. (Elias Levy/ CC BY 2.0 )

One of the characteristics that is popular in humans is that if something is deadly dangerous, people want to find out more and are inspired by it. With time, megalodon became a very popular motif in popular culture. One of the most famous literary works discussing the megalodon is the book series by Stevel Alten called MEG. It is a bestseller in many countries around the world. Moreover, the prehistoric shark was an inspiration for an uncountable number of stories about giant monsters which are dangerous to humans and animals.

Megalodons lived during the times of dinosaurs, and perhaps died with them as well. However, as long as one cannot explain away all of the mysterious pictures and people who claim that they've seen a sea beast, there is still a chance that the monstrous killer lives somewhere under the waters even today. The truth stays hidden within the oceans.

Top Image: Artistic representation of a megalodon pursuing two Eobalaenoptera whales. Source: Karen Carr/CC BY 3.0

By Natalia Klimczak

References

Megalodon, available at:
http://sharkopedia.discovery.com/types-of-sharks/megalodon/

Could Megalodon Still Live In The Deep Ocean? Available at:
http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/could-megalodon-still-live-deep-ocean/

The Real Megalodon: Prehistoric Shark Behind Doc Uproar by Ker Than, available at:
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/08/130807-discovery-megalodon-shark-week-great-white-sharks-animals/

The Megalodon Shark, available at:
http://www.sharksider.com/megalodon-shark/

Comments

In the third paragraph the author states “The gigantic shark lived about 23 to 2.6 million years ago, since the early Miocene to the end of the Pliocene period.” But, in the last paragraph I read “Megalodons lived during the times of dinosaurs, and perhaps died with them as well.” Because this article is pretty much a synopsis of Wikepedia’s coverage of the same, I’m going to accept the first date.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megalodon

The first date is accurate. The most recent live shark sighting of this variety of shark was 23 years ago.

Steve Byrd's picture

There is no telling what may be found in the oceans. So little of it has ever been explored.

Imagine if the idiots running this world put down their militaristic insanity and worked in unison to explore what's being wantonly destroyed below our feet. Imagine what we'd find, what we'd learn... How many cures lie waiting to be discovered if we focused on discovery rather than usurpation for the sake of greed
I remain disgusted....

Tsurugi's picture

Maybe what is needed is for the idiots running the world to be given a lot less power and control over everything. It seems to me that they've done a piss-poor job of it and yet everywhere you look there are people who seem to think government is the solution to everything. Even in this article it is there! Someone asked the marine biologist about ancient giant sharks, and she can't answer the question without tying it in to "government policy" and controlling ocean environments.

Other than that, I enjoyed this article. I imagine Megalodon was probably involved in some of the most epic one-on-one battles-to-the-death ever fought in the history of this planet. Conjures some crazy imagery....80 ft shark vs 100 ft squid. Would make a fortune on PPV.

As for the possibility ol' M could still be around, lurking in the depths...well, we know that sometimes, when large predators appear near the coast, fish will purposefully swim onto the beach trying to get away. And you have to wonder, what is big enough to make whales beach themselves....

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