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Livyatan Melvillei vs Megalodon: Real Prehistoric Sea Monsters

Updated on February 16, 2016
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With interests in science, nature, and the paranormal, cryptid explores fringe topics from a unique and sometimes controversial perspective.

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

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

Megalodon

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?

See results

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    • profile image

      Chris Perrin 11 days ago

      Leviathan wins... Just like killer whales and large sharks today

    • profile image

      Justin 5 weeks ago

      I belive the Levyathan wins because we don't know if I'd lived in pods, so if it did megalodon would become lunch

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      Do Kalied 5 weeks ago

      Megalodon was not built like a normal shark and was more robust than the whale so o voted megalodon

    • profile image

      YEaaaaaaBoiiii 5 weeks ago

      megalodon wins the match pretty easy had alot more teeth

      kinda 15-18 cm long it had 276 teeth and strongest bite force of al

      animals ever lived 41.000 pounds that around 19 tons but the livyatan whale had twice bigger teeth megalodon was faster with 70 kmh and megalodon also had a thick body so it can take a hit mabye megalodon would go for his flippers first so -1 flipper almost impossible to run from megalodon and he also need to breath he need to go up to breath so it would drown and megalodon had a good lunch in my opinion :}

    • profile image

      5 weeks ago

      I just absolutly love how everyone declares megalodon winner solely because of its bite force. Sure its a guranteed kill with a bite that could crush a car, but remember that livyatan also has an instakilling bite, so all it matters is who attacks first. 50 50 to me.

    • profile image

      Adz 7 weeks ago

      i think its just like giant squid and sperm whale there is a 50 50 chance of either of them winning

    • profile image

      Lad 2 months ago

      i think megalodon because it have the most powerful biteforce in history powerful than a T.Rex!and hunt bigger whales but when livyatan did live in pods well it can kill the 59 feet megalodon but if scientist found a larger teeth of a megalodon yeah megalodon can kill a pod of livytan but its still not confirmed of livyatan live in pods and if livyatan did not live in pods well megalodon can kill them because there is some whales that did not live in pods

    • profile image

      Triceraraptor 3 months ago

      Don't get me wrong Livyatan is a pretty powerful whale and there's a possibility that Moby Dick is based on this creature(if this is true then I'm pretty sure that megalodon would have had a hard time killing it).The megalodon would have had the advantage though 88% of the time though.

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      Steve 3 months ago

      Both creatures seemed to get to the 15-20 metre mark, so I would go Livyatan considering its intelligence, potential for ramming, and the possibility that being a whale, it was social. But certainly a close one and like with Lions and Tigers, the fight could go either way

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      anthony 4 months ago

      a good example of the outcome of this fight is in recent years great whites are now prey of orcas. I think that livyatan is too smart for the shark. head butts it, put them in tonic immobility then consumes it.

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      Matthew sk oya. 5 months ago

      Megalodon is too big and powerful shark wins!!!!!!????

    • profile image

      Johnathan 5 months ago

      Megalodons are top predators in the ocean and king of aquatic park

    • cryptid profile image
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      cryptid 6 months ago from Earth

      @abhra: Not really true. T Rex bite force likely topped out around 12,000 pounds where the Megalodon shark is estimated at a max of over 3x that force.

    • profile image

      abhra 6 months ago

      t.rex had the most powerful bite of any known animal .

    • profile image

      James 7 months ago

      As said depending on circumstance but would probably end in a tie with one perishing because of blood loss or megalodon if and only if Livyatan goes for air but that's probably not likely seeing as a Sperm whale can hold it's breath for an hour and a half, that's how Megalodon wins.

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      Miguel Manual 8 months ago

      The shark wins the war. Livyathan will go to the surface for air, making a big chance for the terror shark for attacking its fins first to slow it down for a while. Mega will go for the stomach to bite, ending the whale's reign.

    • cryptid profile image
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      cryptid 9 months ago from Earth

      @Vince: Typically marine mammals are quicker and more maneuverable than large sharks. That's how seals stay alive (sometimes). However, some sharks are very fast too, ex. makos. It's all theoretical, since we'll never know whether or not Megalodon was faster than Leviathan.

    • profile image

      Vince:) 9 months ago

      What does the choices mean about the livyatan being fast.So basically a 69 ton whale is fast? the only thing I find weird isn't that the whale's only way of locomotion is it's tail and it has solid bone.Unlike the shark they have almost no bone,thus being faster

    • profile image

      Gracjan gamer 780 9 months ago

      thanks for information so I vote for a tie

    • profile image

      Amy 9 months ago

      Powerful shark vs smart n genius whale. Of course the smart n genius win. They know their enemies weakness. I voted Livyatan Melvillei (killer whale)

    • profile image

      Xandie Shona 13 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 ^-^

    • profile image

      new 13 months ago

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

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      P Man 16 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

    • profile image

      1234 17 months ago

      both are awesome but it's an undecided match

    • profile image

      hi 17 months ago

      megalodon could kill the whale when it was breathing air

    • profile image

      Omegamence13 19 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.

    • profile image

      T-Rex king 22 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.

    • profile image

      david 22 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 :)

    • profile image

      Levius 22 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.

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      Eugene Tan 2 years 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.

    • profile image

      Shawn Yapp 2 years 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.

    • profile image

      Joey 2 years 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.

    • profile image

      Bib 2 years 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.

    • profile image

      err 2 years ago

      the winner is megalodon or a tie!

    • carrie Lee Night profile image

      Kept private 3 years ago from Northeast United States

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

    • profile image

      Adalbert 3 years ago

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

    • cryptid profile image
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      cryptid 3 years ago from Earth

      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.

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      hardcore 3 years ago

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

    • Tolovaj profile image

      Tolovaj 3 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?

    • cryptid profile image
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      cryptid 3 years ago from Earth

      Thanks for all the nice comments on this surprising HOD!

    • twig22bend profile image

      twig22bend 3 years ago

      Very interesting and well done hub. Thanks for sharing.

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image

      ExpectGreatThings 3 years ago from Illinois

      Congrats on HOTD! This was very interesting! - Ginger

    • XpektroGzN profile image

      Jean 3 years ago

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

    • KoraleeP profile image

      Koralee Phillips 3 years ago from Penticton 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 :)

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 3 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.

    • cryptid profile image
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      cryptid 3 years ago from Earth

      Thanks Andrew!

    • Andrew Channing profile image

      Andrew Channing 3 years ago from UK

      A really interesting read, thank you for sharing!

    • cryptid profile image
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      cryptid 3 years ago from Earth

      Thanks Elias and Sheila!

      Yes, I'm still around. :-)

    • profile image

      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.

    • 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 :)

    • cryptid profile image
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      cryptid 3 years ago from Earth

      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.

    • 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!