Megalodon Sharks, named for its massive 7 in (17.78 cm) teeth, are the biggest known shark to ever swim in our oceans. Although Megalodon Sharks have been extinct for around 2.6 million years, scientists have been able to piece together some important information about the biology, habitats, and behaviors from the fossil records of these impressive predators. Unfortunately because sharks are cartilaginous fish, there are unique challenges to understanding prehistoric sharks so there are a lot of rumors, speculation, and myths surround Megalodon Sharks. In order to overcome this misinformation, here are the Megalodon Shark facts we know for sure.
Megalodon Sharks Were The Largest Sharks To Ever Exist
Though there is still some disagreement among the scientific community about the size of Megalodon Sharks, scientists agree that they averaged between a massive 50-78 ft (15-24 m) in length and weighed in around 70-100 tons (63.5-90.7 metric tons). Since there are no complete skeletons, Megalodon sizes are estimated by their jaw dimensions and teeth. They also compare Megalodon Sharks to their living cousin the Great White Shark in order to determine their size. Their giant teeth lined massive jaws that measured 11 feet (3.35 m) across and 9 ft (2.75 m) tall at maturity, so some scientists believe they may have been even bigger than these estimates.
Megalodon Sharks Lived All Over The World
Based on the locations of fossil records, scientists believe that Megalodon Sharks lived all over the world. They lived in temperate, tropical, and subtropical waters. Megalodon Shark fossil records have also been found in colder waters, so scientists believe they could regulate their body temperatures with mesothermy. Megalodon Shark fossils have been found along both the coasts in shallow and sandy waters and in the open oceans in deeper waters. Scientists believe that where Megalodon Sharks lived depended on their age. Younger Megalodons were spawned along the coastlines, and would stay and hunt marine mammals until they reached maturity. Once they were fully grown, they hunted in open waters for larger prey like whales.
Megalodon Sharks Did Not Look Like Great White Sharks
Even though Great White Sharks are the closest living shark to a Megalodon, Megalodon Sharks are actually evolved from an extinct line of sharks known as Otodus which had teeth that resembled a Sand Tiger Shark. So scientists believe that the Megalodon may have had a broader more dome-shaped head. They also believe it had a shorter blunt snout based on their teeth. Furthermore, considering it’s massive weight it probably had extra long pectoral fins similar to a Blue Shark. So though they are similar, Great White Sharks are not an exact model Megalodon Sharks.
Megalodon Sharks Were Impressive Hunters
To understand the hunting behaviors of Megalodon Sharks, scientists often look at Great White Sharks. Like Great White Sharks, Megalodon Sharks were built to be incredible hunters. They had strong, powerful jaws with an estimated bite force of 11-18 tons (9.9-16.3 tonnes). They have massive teeth that grew to 7 ¾ in (19.6 cm) in length in 46 rows. Their bodies were streamlined and powerful so they could swim incredibly fast. Scientists estimated with their massive size they could swim at 16.5 ft (5 m) per second, twice as fast as any shark on the planet today. They were also very adaptive hunters. Researchers have noted that based on fossil records of Megalodon’s prey, Megalodon used different attacks strategies for different kinds of prey. It is believed they were better hunters than their Great White Shark predecessors.
Megalodon Sharks Were Apex Predators
Megalodon Sharks were not the only impressive hunter roaming prehistoric oceans. Megalodon Sharks competed with predatory toothed whales that often hunted in packs. They also faced competition from smaller predatory sharks that fed on the same food sources. However, none of these predators could feast on Megalodon Sharks. The only predatory threat Megalodon Sharks faced were other Megalodon Sharks. So even with all the stiff competition in the waters at the time, Megalodon Sharks were the top predators of the ocean, and are arguably the top marine predator to ever exist.
The Megalodon Is Extinct
Even though it’s interesting to think about Megalodon Sharks still lurking our oceans in uncharted waters, they are definitely extinct. We know they are extinct because even with the oceans being so vast and relatively unexplored, there would be evidence of their existence. First, we’d find newer teeth scatter along our beaches. All sharks regrow their teeth so they are commonly found along the shore, no one has discovered a Megalodon tooth dating after around 2.6 million years ago. Secondly, we would notice their predatory habits. Since they are so similar to Great White Sharks, we could see them along coastlines hunting marine animals with their cousins. Also since they predominantly ate whales, we would notice the impact on whale species. So as fun as it is to speculate that Megalodon Sharks still exist, they have been extinct for a long, long time.
Megalodon Sharks are a truly fascinating prehistoric shark. They were the biggest known sharks to ever roam the ocean, bigger than any living shark today. They were skilled, adaptive hunters who could swim incredibly fast and hunted large prey. Though they faced a lot of competition, no other predators could challenge them. So they were the apex predators of their time period. Also, it may be fun to consider the possibility of Megalodon Sharks still roaming our waters, but sadly, we know they are definitely extinct. So even though there are incomplete fossil records, scientists are sure of some Megalodon Shark facts.