Some facts about megalodon

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Megalodon jaws

Here are some facts about megalodon. This is an ancient shark, also called ‘megatooth’. They gave birth to babies larger than most adult humans. The babies grow by feeding on unhatched eggs in the womb. A recent study has discovered this.

This ancient creature lived about 23 to 3.6 million years ago. They reached the length of at least 50 feet (15 m). From the moment that megalodon was born it was a big fish. It is one of the largest carnivores that ever existed on planet Earth. The researchers worked out the size of baby megalodons by scanning growth bands in the vertebrae. They did this at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels.

Megalodon jaws

Megalodon jaws. Picture: Wikipedia.

The vertebrae are 15 cm in diameter and the ones they measured came from an individual about 9 metres long, they believe. The estimation was based on the vertebrae of modern great white sharks.

The images showed that the vertebrae had 46 growth bands which told them that the megalodon that they were studying died at aged 46. Working backwards they calculated that at birth the shark’s size was about 2 metres long. They believe that this was the largest baby in the world.

As mentioned, the data indicated that, like all present-day sharks, an embryonic megalodon grew inside its mother by feeding on unhatched eggs in the womb. This is called oophagy.

The lead author of the study is Kenshu Shimada, professor of palaeobiology at DePaul University in California. A co-author was Martin Becker of William Paterson University in New Jersey. The study is published in Historical Biology.

Here’s some more information and facts. The word megalodon means “big tooth”. It is an extinct species of shark. It was thought to be a close relative of modern day great white sharks but scientists have now classified it into a distinct family which diverged from the great white shark during the Early Cretaceous.

It is regarded as one of the largest and most powerful predators that ever lived on planet Earth. It’s maximum size is uncertain. It probably preyed on whales, seals and sea turtles. They believe that it killed prey by using its strong jaws to break through the chest cavity and puncture the heart and lungs. This is different to great white sharks, which attack prey from the underside.

It is believed that it preferred warmer waters. Ocean cooling at the beginning of the ice ages and the lowering of sea levels lead to a loss of suitable habitat which may have caused its decline. A further contribution was a reduction in megalodon’s primary food source; baleen whales.

The appearance of this massive shark is still being discussed. They think that it may have had a similar appearance to today’s great white shark. The jaws may have been blunter and wider, however. Alternatively, it may have looked like today’s basking shark.

An adult mature male megalodon may have had a body mass of 12.6 to 33.9 metric tons. Females may have weighed between 27.4 to 59.4 metric tons. The enormous size may have been because of the climate and abundance of prey and by the “evolution of regional endothermy which would have increased his metabolic rate and swimming speed.”

It’s bite force may interest people. A team of scientists conducted an experiment to determine the bite force of the great white shark and then scaled this calculation up in line with the body mass of megalodon. They calculated that the bite force of megalodon was between 108,514 to 182,201 newtons (24,395 to 40,960 lbf) for a posterior bite. This compares to 18,216 newtons bite force for the largest great white shark.

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