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If you’ve seen the movie “Jaws,” then you probably recall perhaps the most famous scene in it: The giant great white shark swims by a boat holding the three main characters who have gone out to hunt it down and kill it. After one of the men (played by the late actor Roy Scheider) sees the shark, he remarks, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
Now try to imagine a shark even bigger than that one. How big? The size of the largest whale.
There used to be a shark that size, and that very same shark may still prowl the deepest parts of the ocean, according to Ancient Origins:
“Specialists call the ancient shark Carchardon megalodon or Carchalocles megalodon. It’s official name in literature is C. megalodon. This shark’s monstrous jaws were much bigger than the length of a human body. If it hunted humans, we would have been like small fish for it. Megalodon was perhaps the biggest hunter in the oceans and seas. Its name comes from Greek and means ”big tooth.'”
Megalodon lived 2.3 to 2.6 million years ago, according to scientists, from the early Miocene to the end of the Pliocene period. It was a cruel hunter and ate more than any other animal on the planet.
A Shark of Incredible Size
To give you some idea how big the megalodon was, according to Patrick J. Schembri and Staphon Papson, the giant shark was around 24-25 meters (79-82 ft) long. Most fishing boats are about 98 feet long, meaning the megalodon was just slightly smaller than a boat used for catching fish of various sizes. But it’s hard to catch something that’s almost as big as the boat you happen to be in.
Oh, and the bite force of a megalodon was at least six times as strong as that of a great white shark. The very largest specimen of this massive creature had a tooth that measured 7.25 inches in length!
When it comes to weight, analysis of some 175 species shows they tipped the scales at 48 metric tons to 103 metric tons. No wonder they had to eat so much and so often.
Still Prowling the Seas?
No megalodons remain, do they? That depends on who you ask:
“Some people believe that they’ve seen megalodon during the 20th and 21st century. There are several pictures of possible megalodon, but many of them are altered. A few years ago, Discovery Channel showed a picture which shocked many scientists. The description said that it was a photograph taken in Cape Town in 1942 by a photographer from a Nazi U-boot submarine.”
Specifically, the photo shows a submarine and what may well be a giant shark behind the U-boat. But not everyone is buying the theory, suggesting it was probably a hoax:
“According to several journalists, all of the ”scientists” who appeared in the movie were probably actors who were paid to support the megalodon story. The producers received a lot of criticism, but the megalodon tale became fascinating for millions of people once more. It also resurfaced the question if the huge sharks still live in the oceans.”
What Killed the Megalodon?
Since there are no credible reports of megalodons in the world today, it’s fair to ask exactly what may have led them to become extinct.
Catalina Pimiento, a shark researcher studying megalodon at the University of Florida, told National Geographic that the most likely reason for megalodon’s demise was the rise of competitors such as killer whales:
“Being social hunters, it has been suggested that they out-competed megalodon’s hypothesized solitary hunting style. Great sharks today, like megalodon in the past, are apex predators impacting communities via top down control.”
Some scientists also think that the great white shark may have evolved from megalodon. But it’s difficult to prove such an evolutionary path.
In many ways, the megalodon seems to have gone the way of dinosaurs who roamed the Earth while deep under the seas lurked a shark of such extraordinary size that it still gives rise to fearful myths and endless fascination millions of years after it last swam in any ocean.
Want to know more about megalodon? Watch this video:
Featured Image via Pixabay