Given the release of 'The Meg' movie, in which my response is that of Gary from Final Space, "HOW ABOUT FRIGGIN NO!", I thought I'd write a blog using some science and stuff to expand our mind fortresses.
Megalodon is, without a doubt, a creature that captures the curiosity and imaginations of many of us. Perhaps due to its somewhat mythical persona. Before megalodon was correctly identified as a shark, its teeth were thought to be rocks that had fallen from the moon or the petrified tongues of dragons and giant serpents. Pretty cool right?
It wasn't until 1666, while studying the teeth of great white sharks, that naturalist Nicolaus Steno made the realisation that these “tongue stones” were actually shark’s teeth.
Over the years, many fossilized whalebones have been found with signs of bite marks that match megalodon's massive pearly whites. These triangular teeth could be over 7 inches in length! Reconstructions of the megalodon’s jaw suggest it may have been up to 7 feet across (2.1 meters) by 11 feet (3.4 metres) and lined with around 276 of these 7-inch gnashers.
Bite force? I am glad you asked.
Humans have been measured with a bite force of around 1,317 Newtons (N), while great white sharks have been predicted to be able to bite down with a force of 18,216N. Researchers have estimated that megalodon had a bite of between 108,514 and 182,201N.
"ARE YOU FOR SERIOUS!?!"
So given these exceptionally large chompers, you may now wonder what they ate?
This 50-foot (15 - 18m) elasmobranch patrolled our ocean (which looked very different to now) for 13 million years during the Miocene period, and, you guessed it, where pro whale eating machines, their prey also included other large sea creatures. Given their vast size and powerful bite force it is suggested that ' The Meg' may have been one of the most powerful predators ever to have existed.
Might I add some additional research here...google 'Leviathan'.
Is your response similar to "OH MY CRAP!?"...yeah thought so. This creature is no Mooncake and it is highly likely that our prehistoric sharky friend, Mr Meg, would have come into contact with this 50-foot, armed with 14inch teeth, whale when looking for their common lunchtime snack of blubbery whale.
What led to Megalodons extinction?
Again, many mysteries surround these sea dragons and Scientists only have theories. Megalodon hunted exclusively in warmer waters, like the majority of sharks, they most likely couldn't regulate their internal body temperature, therefore when the Ice Age set in and waters become much colder it could have had a profound effect on their numbers. Sea levels also dropped which erased many of the shallow coastal seas that this mega-shark called home. On top of this changing ocean currents redistributed krill and plankton further towards the poles, and naturally, the whales followed suit, leaving megalodon with two options: stay and starve or follow and freeze to death.
Next Question, what did they look like?
Like you, I immediately imagine an over-sized great white and thanks to movies like 'The Meg' many will retain this image. Granted, for a long time, we believed megalodon to be a relative of the great white (Carcharodon carcharias) however we now believe that it is from a different lineage of shark, hence why Megalodon previously known as Carcharodon or Carcharocles megalodon is now known as Otodus megalodon.
Megalodon likely had a much shorter nose compared with the great white, with a flatter, almost squashed jaw. It also had extra-long pectoral fins, not dissimilar to our modern Blue Shark, to support its weight and size.
BOOM! There you have it, you've successfully expanded your megalodon knowledge inside that 'meg'-a-mind space of yours. Hope you've enjoyed this blog!