Megalodon

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Megalodon
Temporal range: OligocenePleistocene
Model of the jaws of the megalodon at the American Museum of Natural History
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Chondrichthyes
Subclass: Elasmobranchii
Order: Lamniformes
Genus: Carcharodon
Binomial name
Carcharodon megalodon
Megalodon tooth with slant height (diagonal length) of over 170 mm.
Vertebral centrum of a whale bitten in half by a megalodon. Large bite marks (deep gashes) on the vertebral centrum are visible.

The megalodon was the largest shark of all time. Its scientific name is Carcharodon megalodon. It lived from the late Oligocene to early Pleistocene epochs, 28 to 1.5 million years ago (mya).

This giant of a shark was a huge version of the current great white shark,Carcharodon carcharias. Megalodon had teeth, which are among the largest ever found, over 7 inches (18 cm) long. Nicolaus Steno was the first to recognise the teeth as those of a giant shark. The shark was up to 52 feet long (16 meters) and weigh over 60 tons.

The skeleton of a Megalodon was made of cartilage, but it was calcified: it had calcium to strengthen it. Megalodon teeth, however were bone and can be found in all oceans. Other remains found are vertebrae.

Paleoecology[change | change source]

Fossil records of C. megalodon indicate that it occurred in subtropical to temperate latitudes.[1] Before the formation of the Isthmus of Panama, the seas were relatively warmer.[2] This would have made it possible for the species to live in all the oceans of the world.

C. megalodon lived in many marine environments (i.e. continental shelf waters,[3] coastal upwelling,[3] swampy coastal lagoons,[3] sandy littorals,[3] and offshore deep water environments),[4] and moved from place to place.[3] Adult C. megalodon were not abundant in shallow water environments,[3] and mostly lurked offshore. C. megalodon may have moved between coastal and oceanic waters, at different stages in its life.

Its prey[change | change source]

Megalodon hunted large and medium-sized whales, attacking the bony areas, such as chest or fins. This would stop the whale, or it could kill quickly with a fatal bite to the chest region. Megalodon could bite with the one of the strongest bites in the animal kingdom's history.

Its great size,[5] high-speed swimming capability,[6] and powerful jaws coupled with formidable killing apparatus,[5][1] made it an apex predator eating a range of fauna.

Fossil evidence is that C. megalodon preyed on cetaceans (i.e., dolphins,[1] small whales,[7][3] and Odobenocetops,[8] and large whales,[9] (including sperm whales,[4][10] bowhead whales,[11] and rorquals[9][12] pinnipeds,[13] porpoises,[4] sirenians,[3][14] and giant sea turtles.[3]

Marine mammals were regular prey targets for C. megalodon. Many whale bones have been found with clear signs of large bite marks (deep gashes) made by teeth that match those of C. megalodon,[7][1] and various excavations have revealed C. megalodon teeth lying close to the chewed remains of whales,[1] and sometimes in direct association with them. Fossil evidence of interactions between C. megalodon and pinnipeds also exist. In one interesting observation, a 127 millimetres (5.0 in) C. megalodon tooth was found lying very close to a bitten earbone of a sea lion.[13]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Klimley, Peter; Ainley, David 1996. Great White Sharks: the biology of Carcharodon carcharias. Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-415031-4
  2. Gillette, Lynett. "Winds of Change". San Diego Natural History Museum. Archived from the original on 2009-02-07. http://web.archive.org/web/20090207072858/http://www.sdnhm.org/research/readings/fn_0307.html. Retrieved 2012-04-04.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 Aguilera O. & E.R.D. (2004). "Giant-toothed White sharks and wide-toothed Mako (Lamnidae) from the Venezuela Neogene: their role in the Caribbean shallow-water fish assemblage". Caribbean Journal of Science 40 (3): 362–368.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Renz, Mark 2002. Megalodon: hunting the hunter. PaleoPress. ISBN 0-9719477-0-8
  5. 5.0 5.1 Wroe S. et al. 2008. Three-dimensional computer analysis of white shark jaw mechanics: how hard can a great white bite?. Journal of Zoology 276 (4): 336–342.
  6. Arnold, Caroline 2000. Giant Shark: Megalodon, prehistoric super predator. Houghton Mifflin. pp 18–19 ISBN 978-0-395-91419-9
  7. 7.0 7.1 Bruner, J.C. (1997). "The Megatooth shark, Carcharodon megalodon: rough toothed, huge toothed". Mundo Marino Revista Internacional de Vida (non-refereed) (Marina) 5: 6–11. http://www.sharksteeth.com/megatoothshark.htm. Retrieved 2011-11-14.
  8. "Fact File: Odobenocetops". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/seamonsters/factfiles/odobenocetops.shtml. Retrieved 2008-03-21.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Morgan, Gary S. (1994). "Whither the giant white shark?". Paleontology Topics. Paleontological Research Institution.
  10. "MEGALODON". Fossil Farm Museum of the Fingerlakes. http://fingerlakesfossilfarm.org/mammal_fossils.htm. Retrieved 2010-07-01.
  11. deGruy, Michael. Perfect Shark [TV-Series]. BBC.
  12. Godfrey, Stephen (2004). "The Ecphora: fascinating fossil finds" (PDF). Paleontology Topics. Calvert Marine Museum. http://www.calvertmarinemuseum.com/cmmfc/newsletter/CMMFC_Newsletter_2004-04.pdf. Retrieved 21 February 2010.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Kehe, Andy. "Bone apetite". http://www.sharktoothhill.org/bone.html. Retrieved 17 February 2011.
  14. Godfrey, Stephen (2007). "The Ecphora: shark-bitten sea cow rib" (PDF). Paleontology Topics. Calvert Marine Museum. http://www.calvertmarinemuseum.com/cmmfc/newsletter/CMMFC_Newsletter_2007-03.pdf. Retrieved 27 March 2010.