Megalodon Shark Facts: Size, Extinction, Sightings and Other FAQ
The Megalodon shark was one of the most terrifying creatures that ever lived on our planet. It was the largest predatory shark ever, even more powerful than the largest dinosaurs. It grew to the size of tractor-trailer semi-truck, and it ate whales for breakfast.
It may sound like a monster from a horror movie, but Megalodon was a real shark, and it really did exist in our world's oceans at one time. We all know how dangerous a Great White Shark is, and in Megalodon we imagine a shark with the same instincts and ferocity, but much, much larger. It’s no wonder this amazing shark has sparked the curiosity of so many people!
This article will help you learn more about the Megalodon shark. First, we'll look at the real Megalodon. Scientists and researchers think they know quite a bit about how this massive shark lived, and you can find the answers to your questions here.
Then, we will explore the possibility that Megalodon could still be alive today. It seems unlikely, but some researchers think it is possible. When we talk about a modern Megalodon we are entering the world of cryptozoology.
Read on and learn more about the Megalodon shark!
Megalodon Facts: The Real Shark of Paleontology
Megalodon was a real shark, and it ruled the ancient ocean. Modern science confirms this. So, have you ever wondered what the real Megalodon shark was like?
Researchers have taken what they learned from studying Megalodon fossils and filled in the blanks a bit with what they know about modern sharks. The result is a fairly clear picture of what Megalodon was probably like. Of course, since the shark isn't around today we can't know for sure, but experts can make some pretty good guesses.
Here are some facts in answer to questions often asked about the real Megalodon shark:
When did Megalodon live?
Estimates vary, but a good guess is Megalodon first appeared as early as 28 million years ago, and last appeared about 1.5 million years ago. Some researchers have calculated a slightly narrower range, more like 20-2 million years.
What evidence is there that this shark really existed?
Fossilized teeth, some of which measure seven inches in height, are the main pieces of evidence here. There are also rare examples of vertebrae. Because shark skeletons consist mostly of cartilage, these are the only parts that fossilize. But there are also marks on whale bones, which match with Megalodon teeth. This tells us a great deal about the size and behavior of this shark.
How big was the Megalodon shark?
Big. An accepted estimate today is 50 to 60 feet, and perhaps 60 to 70 tons, but of course we can’t know for sure. Researchers use calculations based on White Shark measurements and fossilized Megalodon teeth and vertebrae to determine the size of an adult megalodon. Early researchers thought it could have reached up to 100 feet in length!
Check out the image below of the Megalodon shark compared to a human. Yikes!
What did Megalodon eat?
Anything it wanted! Prehistoric whales would have been on the menu, as well as sea lions, dolphins, and even giant sea turtles. Megalodon was the apex predator of its day, and a full-grown adult would have been capable of taking on the biggest whales in the ocean.
How did Megalodon hunt?
Researchers think Megalodon was a coastal hunter, similar to a Great White. This means it would have stayed relatively close to shore. Of course, Megalodon would have chosen much larger prey than the Great White. However, even today many whales pass close to shore during their migrations, so it is easy to see why Meg would have used this hunting behavior.
Did Megalodon have any enemies?
Maybe! During part of the time when Megalodon lived there was a massive predatory whale called Livyatan Melvillei. It grew as large as Megalodon and had teeth a foot long! Since Megalodon preyed on whales, we have to wonder who got the best of who when these two monsters met.
Where did Megalodon live?
Megalodon would have lived in all the oceans of the world, as the seas were warmer back then. Juvenile sharks likely spent more time near the coast in shark nurseries, similar to Great Whites. Adults would have been found in deeper water where larger prey items were located.
Why did the Megalodon shark go extinct?
According to one theory, when the oceans cooled during the last ice age it upset the warm-water ecosystems where Megalodon thrived. In another scenario, the die-off of many of the giant shark’s prey items made food sources scarcer. It’s also possible that the evolution of predatory whales and other sharks presented more competition for Megalodon.
Did Megalodon live at the same time as humans?
No, at least not Homo sapiens. The last Megalodon lived around 1.5 million years ago at the latest. While there would have been early human ancestors around at the time, modern humans did not evolve until much later.
Did Megalodon live at the same time as dinosaurs?
No again. The mass extinction of the dinosaurs occurred about 65 million years ago. Megalodon wouldn’t arrive on the scene for another 40 million years.
Did Megalodon evolve into the whale shark?
No. While it is similar in size, the Whale Shark is a filter feeder where Megalodon, like the Great White, was a predatory hunter. More significantly, these two sharks are of different orders and families in the shark family tree. So, while they are distantly related, one did not evolve into the other.
Is Megalodon just a big Great White Shark?
There are a few answers, depending on which group of paleobiologists you want to side with. According to some, Megalodon should be classified within the genus Carcharodon, which would make it a relative of the White Shark. Others say it ought to be in the genus Carcharocles, which means it would have evolved in line with other prehistoric giant sharks and has no living relatives. Yet a third school of thought is to classify Megalodon in the genus Otodus, an extinct lineage of predatory sharks.
How did Megalodon get its name?
The word Megalodon is derived from two Greek words which together mean "Big Tooth". It is easy to see why early researchers would have chosen this name! Some fossilized megalodon teeth are as big as a grown man's hand.
Megalodon vs Whale
Alleged Megalodon Sightings
Interestingly, some people believe Megalodon is still out there in the ocean somewhere, alive and well. How could this be possible, and where is the evidence?
A living Megalodon is a fascinating concept for cryptozoologists, novelists, documentary filmmakers, and even internet bloggers. The debate really took off when the Discovery Channel aired Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives for Shark Week 2013. With the wave of controversy that followed this fake Megalodon documentary, it seemed like everyone was suddenly interested in the beast.
Below you can find the answers to a lot of questions. Feel free to ask more questions in the comments section below.
Could Megalodon still be around today?
It is extremely unlikely. Megalodon was a coastal hunter and if it still existed today there would be easy proof. Some cryptozoologists argue that the ocean is a vast place, and largely unexplored. Almost anything could exist out there, and remain undetected for a long time. However, for Meg to exist today it would have had to evolve into something very different.
What the heck is cryptozoology?
Cryptozoology is the study of animals that might exist, but there is no scientific proof to say they’re really out there. Like Bigfoot, or the Loch Ness Monster. Even though Megalodon really did exist once upon a time, when we talk about the modern Megalodon really we’re talking about a creature we have little evidence for.
So why do some people think Megalodon is still alive?
Mostly because of alleged sightings of massive sharks by fishermen, but there’s also the matter of the Megalodon teeth dredged up during a 19th-century expedition that dated to as recently as 10,000 years old.
What are Megalodon sightings really?
Many credible Megalodon sightings can be attributed to large Great White Sharks or even misidentified Whale Sharks. White sharks can grow to over 20 feet in length, maybe more, and whale sharks can top 40 feet.
Could Megalodon live in the Mariana Trench?
It is unlikely. Remember that Megalodon was a coastal shark that ate whales, seals, and other marine mammals. To exist at that depth it would have had to evolve to feed on other food sources. There is some evidence that Great Whites may dive deep to feed on squid, but they don't stay down there for their whole lives.
Are there any pictures of Megalodon?
Yes, lots of them, but they are all fake.
Are you sure? Because I saw this video on YouTube . . .
Rest assured that if a living Megalodon were to really be captured on film it would be the discovery of the century. It would be like discovering a living dinosaur. Every marine biologist in the world would be talking about it, and we wouldn’t need to speculate on whether or not a YouTube clip is real.
How can I study Megalodon for a living?
You can become a paleontologist. Paleontologists study prehistoric animals by examining the fossil record. Or, you can become a marine biologist if you want to study sharks in general.
How can I search for Megalodon?
If you want to search for this giant shark you’ll likely be calling yourself a cryptozoologist, and doing it on your own dime. There aren’t a lot of grants available for cryptozoology, and it’s considered a pseudoscience by most professionals. However, a strong background in both paleontology and marine biology would help you in your quest. Many cryptozoologists are distinguished in other related fields and do their cryptid hunting on the side. Others work in a completely unrelated profession.
I’m writing a report on the Megalodon shark. Where should I start?
Start with the real-life ancient shark and study what modern science knows about the creature. Then you may wish to move on to the cryptozoology side, and discuss the possibility that Megalodon is still alive today.