Long before the great white shark there was a bigger badder shark that roamed the seas. At the top of the food chain, no form of aquatic life stood in its way. The mega tooth shark a.k.a. the Megalodon, is an extinct species of shark that has fascinated scientists and inspired many works of fiction, both in literature and cinema. Here are 10 incredible fact about the Megalodon.
1. The Megalodon is considered to be the most powerful predator in vertebrate history and a better hunter than the great white shark.
It is no secret that Sharks employ complex hunting strategies to feed on large prey, but fossil evidence suggests that the Megalodon employed more effective hunting strategies against large prey than the great white shark.
One specimen of a 9 meter (30 ft) long prehistoric baleen whale indicated that the Megalodon shark that attacked it focused primarily on the whales shoulders, flippers, rib cage, and upper spine, areas that great white sharks generally avoid. This was done to crush the bones and damage the vital organs within the rib cage .
The Megalodon were also adaptive. Evidence shows that during the Pliocene, the ancient sharks immobilize large whales by attacking their flippers first before killing and feeding.(source)
2. The fossils of Megalodon teeth were once thought to be the petrified tongues of dragons.
According to accounts dating back to the Renaissance, massive triangular teeth were often found buried in rocky mountains and were believed to be the fossilized tongues of dragons and snakes. It wasn’t until 1667 that they were recognized by Danish naturalist Nicolaus Steno as shark teeth.
Steno went on to famously produce a depiction of a sharks head bearing similar teeth and described the findings in his book The Head of a Shark Dissected.(source)
3. The oldest Megalodon fossil is reported to be about 28 million years old.
The earliest Megalodon remains were reportedly from the late Oligocene strata which makes them around 28 million years old, but a more generally accepted date for the origin of the Megalodon is the Middle Miocene, which was about 15.9 million years ago. It is believed that Megalodon became extinct 2.6 million years ago, by the end of the Pliocene.(source)
4. Megalodon teeth are the largest in size of any known shark species.
The initial scientific name for the Megalodon was Carcharodon Megalodon which is often dubbed informally as “Megatooth” shark. The name was given 1835 by Swiss naturalist Louis Agassiz.
Megalodon teeth are the most commonly found fossil regarding the ‘Megatooth shark’ with some findings measuring up to 180 millimeters (7.1 in) in diagonal length. Megalodon teeth are usually triangular, robust, have a v-shaped neck, and are large with fine serrations.
Most of the other Megalodon findings are poorly preserved as all sharks are made primarily of cartilage so scientists rely heavily on the information they can find from Megalodon teeths.(source)
5. Megalodon ate pretty much anything under the sea that moved, including themselves.
Evidence from fossils shows that Megalodon sharks ate dolphins, small whales, large whales, pinnipeds, porpoises, giant sea turtles and more. Whale bones found with giant teeth marks and deep gashes are indicators that marine animals were primary targets for Megalodon.
Fossil evidence also shows that the emergence of the Megalodon caused a massive diversification of cetaceans. After the Megalodon appearing in the Oligocene, macro-predatory odontocetes and giant macro-predatory sharks began to behave differently; developing defensive adaptations and becoming pack predators. Some grew in size. Many macro-predatory sharks also avoided areas inhabited by Megalodon.
Megalodon also had a tendency to ba cannibalistic and like other sharks would have been piscivorous.(source)