Megalodon: The Largest Shark that Ever Lived
Shark!!!!!! Picture in your mind the largest, scariest shark you know. You probably jump to the great white. In our not so distant past, our oceans were home to a beast so large, it made even the great white look like a guppy. Meet megalodon, the largest shark that ever lived.
Megalodon roamed the seas for nearly 15 million years and went extinct roughly 2.6 million years ago. This giant shark inhabited subtropical to temperate waters and, during this time, the temperature of the oceans were relatively higher so their distribution was nearly global. This claim is supported by their fossil distribution throughout the world.
Shark skeletons are made of cartilage and so, they do not preserve well in the fossil record. The only fossils that remain of these grand beasts are their large teeth and the occasional vertebral centra, part of the backbone.
A megalodon’s serrated, triangular teeth are razor-sharp and thick, with large roots. The largest tooth discovered is 18.4 cm (7 ¼ inches) in diagonal length, about the size of a DVD case.
Studying the great white sharks of today can help answer questions of the size, diet, hunting patterns and bite force of megalodon, as they are their best modern analogue. By comparing tooth size to body size, scientists have determined that the extinct creature had a maximum length of 18 metres (60 feet) and a maximum weight of 100 tonnes (98.4 tons). That’s one and half times the length of a bus and the weight of about 35 pickup trucks! Their bite force has been calculated at 100,000 to 180,000 newtons, over 5 times that of a great white.
Want to learn more? Come check out our exhibit Megalodon: Largest Shark that Ever Lived here at Dynamic Earth between March 5th and September 5th, 2016.
Image source: Virginia Museum of Natural History