Livyatan Melvillei vs Megalodon: Real Prehistoric Sea Monsters

Melville's sea monster may have been fictional, but a huge predatory whale called Livyatan did once stalk the world's oceans, along with the massive Megalodon shark.
Melville's sea monster may have been fictional, but a huge predatory whale called Livyatan did once stalk the world's oceans, along with the massive Megalodon shark. | Source

Prehistoric Sea Monsters of Myth and Legend

Livyatan Melvillei and Carcharodon Megalodon were two of the most terrifying ocean predators this planet has ever seen. These are the kind of creatures that have spawned myth and legend since mankind first went into the water.

Even though these beasts had gone extinct long before modern humans were even around, there is still something in us that fears the deep abyss of the open ocean, and what may lurk in its depths.

Livyatan was a massive raptorial whale with the largest functional teeth ever known, some measuring over a foot long.

Megalodon was the biggest shark that ever swam in the oceans of this world, and had the strongest bite force of any known animal.

It’s interesting to imagine these two incredible prehistoric sea creatures squaring off in an epic battle, and if we were around back then we may have seen it. These fearsome predators shared the same ocean during the same time period, and were likely well acquainted with each other. During the Miocene Epoch, some 13 million years ago, they competed for the same food, and the same turf. When they eventually went extinct it was probably for the same reasons.

So who would have been the top predator of the ancient oceans? And, when they met face to face, which of these fearsome giants yielded to the other?

Let’s take a closer look at each of these prehistoric sea monsters.


Livyatan Melvillei is a fairly recent discovery in the world of paleontology, first described back in 2008. The researchers who discovered Livyatan first named it Leviathan, but then realized that name had already been in used to describe another animal. So, they changed the name to the Hebrew spelling.

No matter how you spell it, leviathan is a word that describes this monster quite accurately. Growing to nearly 60 feet long and weighing up to 50 tons, this was a whale to be reckoned with.

It had the biggest teeth of any animal to ever live at over a foot long. Some animals, such as elephants, have longer tusks, but Livyatan’s teeth were built for action.

With such an impressive set of choppers one theory regarding Livyatan’s hunting strategy might be surprising. Like modern sperm whales, Livyatan appears to have had an organ with stored reservoirs of wax and oil at the base of its skull. Today this is seen in whales that dive deep for their prey, but Livyatan is thought to have been a surface hunter. So what would have been the purpose of this organ?

Among the possible guesses, one of the most interesting is that Livyatan may have subdued larger prey items by head-butting at high speed, thereby knocking them unconscious at which point those formidable teeth would have come into the picture. Of course this is only speculation, but there is some precedence for modern whales ramming and sinking whaling ships.

However it got it done, this massive whale was a king in the ancient ocean, with the size and weaponry necessary to take on any adversary. Surely there was no prehistoric beasty large and powerful enough to present a challenge for Livyatan, the Leviathan of the deep.

Discovering the Leviathan


Picture a Great White Shark, except three times as large, and you get some idea of what Megalodon would have been like. Back when Megalodon was first discovered researchers put its estimated length at 80-100 feet, but in recent times there are more realistic numbers. Still, at over 60 feet long and perhaps weighing as much as 100 tons it was the biggest and most dangerous shark that ever lived. To go along with its 7-inch serrated teeth, it had the strongest bite force of any animal ever known, and was much more powerful that even the biggest dinosaurs.

Because shark skeletons consist mostly of cartilage, the only evidence of Megalodon we have today is teeth, jaw fragments and a few pieces of vertebrae. There is some debate over whether it is closely related to the Great White, or whether it was the last in a lineage of giant toothed sharks. Without more evidence it’s hard to know exactly what this creature looked like.

Like Livyatan, Megalodon was a surface hunter, most likely prowling the coasts similar to the way a Great White hunts. Megalodon young would have lived in shark nurseries closer to the shore where they’d be safer, and adults would have hunted in deeper water. Like a modern Great White, Megalodon was likely an ambush predator, attacking from below and at great speed.

Although contested by mainstream science, there are some cryptozoologists who believe the Megalodon shark could still be alive today, perhaps in the deeper parts of the ocean. Various reports of the beast have come out in modern times, including alleged recent sightings in the Sea of Cortez.

While it is highly improbable that a remnant population of Megalodon sharks still exists somewhere in the world, what is certain is that this massive predator once ruled the ancient oceans. Or did it? Until 2008 it was though that Meg was the biggest, baddest thing in the prehistoric sea. Did the monster Livyatan bully this massive shark, or was it the other way around?

The Ancient Ocean Battlefield

Both of these predators lived in every ocean of the world, which were much warmer at the time. They preyed on huge whales, dolphins, porpoises, pinnipeds, giant sea turtles, sharks and probably anything else they came across. It’s even likely that smaller individuals of either species would have fallen prey to the other. But the primary food source for both was marine mammals.

A genus of ancient whale called Cetotherium would have been a target for both Megalodon and Livyatan. These whales grew to about 15 feet in length, and weighed around a ton. They were filter feeders, ill-equipped to defend themselves, and easy prey.

Larger whales were on the menu too, including ancient relatives of the massive Blue Whale. It is believed Megalodon may have subdued prey larger than itself by biting the fins off first, then coming in for the kill.

Livyatan might have used the aforementioned head-butting technique to clobber bigger prey items into submission, but it most likely stuck to smaller victims.

With such a command over the ancient oceans it seems unfathomable that these huge creatures would have somehow met their ends, but a changing climate proved too much for them.

Researchers believe the shifting ocean conditions may have played a part in the extinction of these massive predators, either influencing the creatures directly or altering their food supply.

But why did these monsters die off where other sea creatures of the same time flourished? The answer simply may be that large predators have a more difficult time adapting to changing conditions, particularly where their food sources are involved.

Whatever the reasons, other marine creatures would go on to fill to niches left by the demise of these prehistoric sea monsters. Had they continued to thrive, and shape the ecology of the world’s oceans, surely our seas would look much different today.

A tooth from the massive Megalodon shark.
A tooth from the massive Megalodon shark. | Source

Megalodon or Livyatan: Who Wins?

So who was king of the ancient ocean, the true apex predator of the Miocene?

Was it Livyatan? It’s teeth were almost twice the size of Megalodon’s, and if it was like whales of today it was a more agile swimmer. It also would have possessed much greater intelligence than Megalodon. If Livyatan were to zero in on a moderately sized Megalodon and decide it wanted lunch it seems there would be little the shark could do to save itself.

Or was it Megalodon? We know this huge shark preyed on large whales, and Livyatan would have had to come to the surface for air. Close to the waves, even a massive adult whale would have been easy prey for the stealthy shark.

So, depending on the circumstances, it’s easy to see each of these monsters getting the better of the other. But what about in a head-to-head encounter?

While we can assume that full-on fighting wasn’t in the best interest of either creature, and probably occurred very rarely, the nod seems to go to Megalodon in this case.

With a larger, thicker body, and much more powerful bite force, not to mention wider, more massive jaws, the Megalodon was likely the apex predator even among apex predators.

But don’t count Livyatan out. This is a relatively new species, and as research continues surprises may be revealed. Either way, thanks to these two monsters the prehistoric ocean was a very dangerous place.

So, what do you think? Megalodon or Livyatan?

Who was the True Apex Predator? Cast Your Vote

Massive shark or killer whale? Who wins?

  • Livyatan was smarter and quicker. It goes to the whale.
  • Megalodon was too big and powerful. Shark wins.
See results without voting

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Comments 32 comments

Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Very interesting article. I guess the blue whale is no longer cinsidered the largest creature to have ever lived. Very much enjoyed the read!

cryptid profile image

cryptid 3 years ago from Earth Author

Thanks Teresa. But as big as these things were, they weren't quite the size of Blue Whales. They both topped out around 60 foot, where Blue Whales can reach close to 100. Researchers originally thought Megalodon might get that big, but they eventually dialed it back a little.

Elias Zanetti profile image

Elias Zanetti 3 years ago from Athens, Greece

They are both fascinating creatures and it's really hard to say who would win in a battle. Perhaps, considering the way that contemporary Orca's are known to have attacked and killed Great Whites, i should give a good chances to Livyatan. Anyway, nice presentation and informative hub. Well done :)

sheilamyers 3 years ago

I haven't heard from you for a while and thought you disappeared from HP. I'm glad you're still here writing great and interesting hubs.

cryptid profile image

cryptid 3 years ago from Earth Author

Thanks Elias and Sheila!

Yes, I'm still around. :-)

Andrew Channing profile image

Andrew Channing 3 years ago from UK

A really interesting read, thank you for sharing!

cryptid profile image

cryptid 3 years ago from Earth Author

Thanks Andrew!

DreamerMeg profile image

DreamerMeg 2 years ago from Northern Ireland

My eldest granddaughter is very much into mythical creatures and large dangerous animals at the moment. She loves tales like this. Very well written and interesting.

KoraleeP profile image

KoraleeP 2 years ago from Vernon British Columbia Canada

Your Hub is very interesting. I think the winner would depend on who got the upper advantage first. But I wonder how often these two creatures ran into each other in the water.

Please keep us posted on continuing research on Livyatan :)

XpektroGzN profile image

XpektroGzN 2 years ago

Imagine? a shark that big lurking around the oceans , surely lots of species wouldn't be alive now, bye schools of tunas

ExpectGreatThings profile image

ExpectGreatThings 2 years ago from Illinois

Congrats on HOTD! This was very interesting! - Ginger

twig22bend profile image

twig22bend 2 years ago

Very interesting and well done hub. Thanks for sharing.

cryptid profile image

cryptid 2 years ago from Earth Author

Thanks for all the nice comments on this surprising HOD!

Tolovaj profile image

Tolovaj 2 years ago

Fascinating creatures. I thought I knew everything about great predators but livytan is news to me. He certainly had problems finding enough food ... Who knows what secrets oceans still hide from us?

hardcore 2 years ago

Woner if whale were in a pod. - I doubt shark would last long if the whale was.

cryptid profile image

cryptid 2 years ago from Earth Author

That's a really good question, hardcore. A little quick research tells me modern, adult sperm whales are generally solitary animals, but females and younger males, as well as other predatory whales, do often live in groups. I suspect a Megalodon shark would not have much of a chance against a pod of Livyatan whales.

Adalbert 2 years ago

I think whale wins. 99% of fights between great white shark and orca result in orca's victory.

carrie Lee Night profile image

carrie Lee Night 2 years ago from Northeast United States

Great hub :). I learned something new today :). Kings of the Sea :)

err 23 months ago

the winner is megalodon or a tie!

Bib 21 months ago

Megladon sucks, it's built out of weak cartilage and the whales over a foot long teeth could easily Pierce that. Plus megladon isn't 100 tons.

Joey 15 months ago

Livyatan stuck to small whales for a reason ;)

Megalodon the experienced whale killer would wreck the small whale hunter like any other big whale.

Shawn Yapp 14 months ago

I think Megalodons win cause they are quicker and could attack sperm whales. However, Leviathans can hold up a good fight and might get a clutch win or tie.

Eugene Tan 13 months ago

In a fight between predators with such powerful bites, it usually comes down to who gets the first hit. Megalodon would shear right through Livyatan like butter and Livyatan could kill a soft-boned shark in one bite.

Obviously, Megalodon is the faster and considerably more agile aquatic predator (compared to a Sperm Whale), and has a higher chance of scoring an ambush attack due to its hunting tactics. In a confrontation I would bet on the giant shark. Were Livyatan more built like an Orca I would have to reconsider obviously.

Levius 11 months ago

I would vote for Megalodon given the attributes of the shark that it used to hunt prey. Sure Livyatan maybe huge, smart, and unstoppable when in pods.

But imagine a large adult swimming alone in the surface unknowingly being stalked by the shark from below. The shark spots it's shillouette on the surface and dives down deeper to position itself for a strike. After it reached the designated depth, it lanches itself upward using its massive tail, smashes into the whale's abdomen and bites deep into the vertebra creating massive injury and blood loss. The shark can then finish the job.

So yeah I'd say Megalodon wins if the prerequisites are met. If the whale is alone and not with a pod, basically it's dead meat. But if there is a pod, then the outcome would be the opposite.

david 11 months ago

No one has mentioned that the livyatan has echolocation which means that it would be almost impossible for a megladon to sneak up on it. Also whales can dive much deeper than sharks so the livyatan has the advantage of attacking from below the same way orcas kill great whites.....long story short livyatan wins :)

T-Rex king 10 months ago

This is the hardest match I have ever seen. But still I will choose the megalodon because the whale has to breath air and plus, the shark skin is too thick.

Omegamence13 7 months ago

Awesome, i gotta hand it to the whale, because it uses echolocation, and the shark is just not fast enough, both are awesome though.

hi 5 months ago

megalodon could kill the whale when it was breathing air

1234 5 months ago

both are awesome but it's an undecided match

P Man 5 months ago

Mate the ting is, from recent studies orca is almost definitely gonna beat a great white. Scale it up a notch and I still think livyatan wins, but megalodon is a tough contender! The real competition here would be popularity, the king(megalodon) vs recent, less popular, underdog(livyatan). Then again we always feared sharks more than whales

new 2 months ago

I think it would be a tie. They are just too evenly matched.

Xandie Shona 2 months ago

Im having doubts that megalodon was THAT much heavier then Levyatan. Megalodon had a lightweight Cartilage skeleton, while levyatan had a bone skeleton and on top of that, likely had a layer of blubber, which is heavier then both fat and muscle. If Megalodon was heavier, I doubt that the difference would be 50 whole Tons, plz someone clarify if Im wrong ^-^

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