Livyatan Melvillei vs Megalodon: Real Prehistoric Sea Monsters
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.
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?