Many people dream of how interesting life would be if mysterious and awe-inspiring creatures from millions of years ago were to show up today. They collect information about Bigfoot, the prehistoric humanoid that many claim to have seen walking around the upper reaches of the snowy Himalayas, and watch the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park, obsessively speculating on the scientific validity of the premise of the movie. To this group, another prehistoric wonder holds particular fascination: the megalodon.
What was (or is) the megalodon?
The name megalodon is Greek for “big tooth.” A super-predator, it is the largest species of shark to ever have lived. There’s a reason why it was named after its teeth. As a shark, nearly its entire skeleton was cartilaginous. The only real bony material in its body was its teeth. They are the only fossils from the creature to have ever been recovered. Records show that the shark had teeth as large as 7 inches each. Compared to the 2-inch size of the teeth of the great white shark, they were massive.
The megalodon wasn’t as large as the modern blue whale, the largest animal to have ever existed on land or in water; it was close, though. While the blue whale grows up to 98 feet in length, the megalodon was more than three-fourths the size at 80 feet. The whale, though, is a mammal, and not a fish.
When it comes to fish, the largest species still around today are the 30-foot-long basking shark and the 40-foot long whale shark. Despite their impressive size, neither fish really inspires the dreamers — these sharks are plankton eaters, and are harmless. The megalodon, though, is like the great white shark — it was the most feared killer of the sea, a creature that didn’t even stop at eating whales.
Its reputation makes this shark far more interesting than just its size would warrant.
A Discovery Channel documentary kicks off fresh speculation
The Discovery Channel’s Shark Week series each year is one of the most important reasons why people continue to be engaged in speculation about the megalodon. They serve up fresh information on the scientific possibility that somewhere in the vast, unexplored expanses of the world’s oceans, the megalodon could still live on. The channel’s Megalodon: The New Evidence, Megalodon — The Monster Shark Lives, Voodoo Shark and other documentaries have led to a huge surge of interest in the prehistoric predator.
Whether or not the megalodon lives today, no one should go by what the Discovery Channel has to say on the subject — each documentary comes with a short disclaimer flashed on the screen that calls it “dramatized.”st people seem to miss the disclaimer. Shortly after each show, the waves of megalodon-related Internet searches done by the show’s audience prove that they do take everything that hey see in each episode very seriously.
Check out one of the documentaries below…
It can be very difficult to tell that they aren’t really “documentaries”
For decades, the Discovery Channel has been the byword for scientifically accurate information that the public can rely on. Children depend on it for their homework, and parents never think of associating the channel with wildly inaccurate hack science. Yet, when it comes to its megalodon shows, the channel seems to be willing to do anything to pull in viewer interest.
- While the show does show interviews with scientists, it edits their responses to suit its “interesting,” but far-fetched assertions.
- Many marine biologists shown on the interviews in the program are simply actors mouthing scripts with incorrect scientific information.
- The pictures of megalodon sightings displayed on the show are fakes created with computer graphics.
- Every report of a megalodon attack referred to on these shows is a fabrication. No news reports exist about them.
Not every documentary about the megalodon is a work of fiction. The National Geographic Channel runs a truly informative and scientifically accurate documentary called Prehistoric Predators: Monster Shark. It doesn’t take liberties with science in speculating on whether the shark is still alive today.
How can scientists really be sure that the megalodon isn’t still around?
To be sure, scientists can’t prove that the megalodon is extinct. A few individuals could be swimming around in the vast oceans, somehow never detected by humans, giant as they are. Yet, scientists have compelling arguments that show how vanishingly small the possibility is that they still live.
No recent body parts are ever found: Like modern sharks, megalodons were chondrichthyes — their skeletons were nearly entirely composed of cartilage. Their teeth are the only record in existence of their having ever lived. Every tooth that scientists have found so far, though, dates back millions of years. No recent teeth have ever been found.
They couldn’t be hiding out in the depths: Megalodon believers often wonder if the shark today escapes detection by living at great depths.
This idea, though, goes against everything that modern science knows about large sea creatures. The amount of food that they need is generally only available in the first few hundred feet of the ocean — life thins out remarkably past that point.
Even if these sharks did live deep in the ocean, they would still wash ashore at some point when they died. No one has ever seen a carcass of a megalodon (despite what the Discovery Channel may show). In addition, from what scientists understand of megalodons, they were shallow-water creatures.
You have other choices
While it can be very exciting to see a super predator of the size of the megalodon today, it can unfortunately not really happen — the fish went extinct eons ago. If you really want to see a huge shark today, you should go swimming in a warm,bout those waters. You could imagine that they were megalodons.