He ruled the oceans for millions of years, why did the super-shark Megalodon disappear?
Nga Michael Heithaus
Imagine traveling back in time, and observing the oceans of 5 million years ago. As you stand on the sea shore, you see some small whales in the distance, floating on the surface of an ancient sea. Suddenly, and without warning, a large creature emerges from the depths.
With its large jaws, the monster bites one of the whales, and plunges it down into the depths. Large pieces of the whale’s body come off, and are swallowed whole by the giant creature. The rest of the whales are scattered.
You just saw Megalodon eating time – officially known as Otodus Megalodon – the largest shark to ever live on Earth. Megalodon would have appeared on the planet about 15 to 20 million years ago. It weighed over 50 tons, ie 50,000 kilograms, and had a length of 15-18 meters.
So this animal was taller than a school bus, and heavier than a train car.
His jaws were up to 3 meters wide, his teeth up to 17.8 centimeters long, and his bite force 2,800 kilograms per square centimeter.
With these dimensions, it is not surprising that the Megalodons hunted large animals. Scientists know this after finding pieces of Megalodon teeth embedded in the bones of large marine animals. But in addition to whales, they also eat large fish, seals, sea lions, dolphins, and other sharks.
Rumors often circulate on the Internet that these creatures still exist today. But this is not true. Megalodons are extinct, and this happened about 3.5 million years ago. Scientists know this again by analyzing their teeth.
All sharks – including Megalodons – produce and eventually lose tens of thousands of teeth throughout their lives. This means that many of these teeth have remained as fossils. Some are found at the bottom of the ocean; others have occasionally come ashore.
But no one has ever found a Megalodon tooth that is less than 3.5 million years old. This is one of the reasons why scientists believe that Megalodon disappeared in that period. Moreover, these creatures spent most of their time relatively close to shore, a place where they could easily find their prey.
Therefore if the Megalodons still existed today, humans would surely have seen them. They were too big to go unnoticed, and we would certainly have lots of photos and videos of them. Perhaps there was not a single reason that led to the extinction of this amazing mega-predator, but a mix of complex challenges.
First, the climate changed dramatically. The global water temperature has dropped, and this reduced the area where Megalodon could thrive, a shark that enjoyed warm waters. Second, because of climate change, entire species that hunted Megalodons became extinct forever.
At the same time, competitors helped bring Megalodon to extinction, including the great white shark. Although they were only a third the size of the Megalodons, the giant white sharks probably ate the same species.
Then there were the killer whales, also an already extinct species. They grew to the size of Megalodon, and even had larger teeth. They were also warm-blooded species. So this meant that they could live in an extended habitat, as they had no problem living even in cold waters.
The killer whales probably traveled in groups, so they were advantageous when confronted by a Megalodon, who was probably hunting alone. The cooling of the seas, the extinction of prey, and the competition were too much for Megalodon. And that is why you will never find a modern day Megalodon tooth. /
“The Conversation” – Bota.al