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True scale of the Megalodon shark revealed

By T.K. Randall
September 3, 2020 · Comment icon 8 comments

Megalodon puts the shark from 'Jaws' to shame. Image Credit: CC BY 3.0 Karen Carr
This gargantuan prehistoric shark was so large that a human standing on its back would be the size of its fin.
Measuring up to 18 meters in length, this prehistoric behemoth, which lived up until around 2.6 million years ago, made the great white shark - which is less than a third of its size - look like a minnow.

For 20 million years this gargantuan predator dominated the world's oceans, but then something happened that had such a catastrophic effect on the species that it ended up going extinct.

Now a new study by scientists in the UK has revealed for the first time just how large Megalodon actually was - building upon previous estimates of the length of its body.
A Megalodon measuring 16 meters in length, it is now believed, would have a head measuring 4.65 meters long, a dorsal fin 1.62 meters tall and a tail 3.85 meters long.

Such an extreme size cements its place as one of the largest predators to have ever lived.

"Megalodon was actually the very animal that inspired me to pursue palaeontology in the first place at just six years old, so I was over the moon to get a chance to study it," said researcher Jack Cooper.

"This was my dream project. But to study the whole animal is difficult considering that all we really have are lots of isolated teeth."

Source: The Guardian | Comments (8)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Jon the frog 4 years ago
The teeth similarities push in the white shark appearance. But with only the teeth, it's hard to imagine the beast fully. Maybe it didn't have a dorsal fin...maybe it was a flattened ambush predator ? Would be great to find better specimen than a couple of vertebrates and some teeth.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Carnoferox 4 years ago
There is actually a preserved vertebral column from Belgium with ~150 associated vertebrae which has been studied by the same team. https://www.palass.org/sites/default/files/media/progressive_palaeontology/2020/posters/poster_2020_175.pdf All lamniform sharks have the same number of fins, so it's pretty certain that megalodon would've had 2 dorsals, 2 pectorals, 2 pelvics, 1 anal, and 1 caudal like the rest of them. We also know that it would've had an active, predatory lifestyle like a great white so would've had a similar body plan. The only sharks that are flattened ambush predators are o... [More]
Comment icon #3 Posted by Jon the frog 4 years ago
Yep, but they are species we know of... maybe strange form of lamniform existed before. It's just that the Megalodon image that we have sell well. Does the very partial clue that we have can make us jump to an easy conclusion ? We don't have a lot of shark remains because of their cartilaginous skeleton. We asume that megalodon is a lamniforme because of 1) teeth :some talk about convergent evolution 2) coprolite that are assumed to be from them and are looking like lamniform ones...  Still Its genus placement is not in cement, right now some phylogenists talk about putting them in the fa... [More]
Comment icon #4 Posted by Carnoferox 4 years ago
The tooth formula and morphology confirm that megalodon is a lamniform without doubt. The convergent evolution of the dentition is in relation to great whites, not to lamniforms as a whole. The vertebrae also confirm this, as they have the characteristic radial lamellae of lamniforms. The coprolites are irrelevant as there's nothing other than size indicating they're from megalodon; most sharks have a spiral valve intestine so the shape alone is not indicative. The tooth morphology of megalodon and bite marks on prey bones reveal that it preyed on marine mammals like small whales and sea... [More]
Comment icon #5 Posted by Cookie Monster 4 years ago
Great White sharks dont actually stop growing at any point in their life. We know the same applies to lobsters although I cannot find if it applies to squid as well. In European legends we have giant sea monsters.  It raises the possibility that we dont find gigantic specimens because we have been fishing the waters heavily for the last 2 or 3 centuries. I`m not aware of them building up a genetic profile of the Great Whites so it might be that Megalodons are very old, very large, great white sharks who had the food available to reach such gigantic sizes.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Carnoferox 4 years ago
Not likely in the slightest. Although similar overall, the teeth of megalodon differ from great whites in several key characteristics like the formula, root shape, bourlette, serration density, etc. It is 100% certain that they are not the same species as great whites, and are not even in the same family. It is true that great whites don't stop growing, but their growth slows significantly after they reach maturity. They do not live long enough to be able to reach megalodon sizes.
Comment icon #7 Posted by NCC1701 4 years ago
It died out just 2.6 million years ago, so our early ancestors were probably on their menu too.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Carnoferox 4 years ago
3.6 million years ago, and encounters between sharks and hominins would've been very rare.

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