After the dinosaurs disappeared from the face of the Earth, a giant predator climbed to the top of the food chain shark megalodon. The only nuance was that his possessions were located not on land, but in the oceans. The species existed in the Pliocene and Miocene epoch, although some scientists can’t put up with it at all and believe that it could survive to this day.
Origin of view and description
Photo: Shark Megalodon
Carcharocles megalodon is a species of extinct sharks belonging to the Otodontidae family. Translated from Greek, the name of the monster means "big tooth." According to the finds, it is believed that a predator appeared 28 million years ago, and died out about 2.6 million years ago.
Interesting fact: The teeth of a predator are so huge that for a long time they were considered the remains of dragons or huge sea snakes.
In 1667, the scientist Niels Stensen put forward the theory that the remains are nothing more than the teeth of a giant shark. Mid 19th century megalodon established itself in a scientific classification called Carcharodon megalodon due to the similarity of teeth with the teeth of a great white shark.
In the 1960s, the Belgian naturalist E. Casier transferred the shark to the genus Procarcharodon, but soon the researcher L. Glickman ranked him as Megaselachus. The scientist noticed that there are two types of shark teeth - with and without notches. Because of this, the species moved from one genus to another until, in 1987, the French ichthyologist Capetta assigned the giant to the current genus.
Previously, it was believed that predators externally and in a manner of behavior were similar to white sharks, but there are reasons to believe that, due to its enormous size and a separate ecological niche, the behavior of megalodons was very different from modern predators, and the appearance is more similar to a giant copy of a sand shark .
Appearance and features
Photo: Great Shark Megalodon
Most of the information about the underwater creature comes from his teeth. Like other sharks, the giant’s skeleton did not consist of bones, but of cartilage. In this regard, very few remains of sea monsters have survived to the present time.
The teeth of the giant shark are the largest among all the fish. In length, they reached 18 centimeters. None of the underwater inhabitants can boast of such fangs. In shape, they are similar to the teeth of a white shark, but three times less. The whole skeleton was never able to be detected, only its individual vertebrae. The most famous find was made in 1929.
The found remains make it possible to judge the size of the fish as a whole:
- length - 15-18 meters;
- weight - 30-35 tons, up to a maximum of 47 tons.
According to the estimated sizes, the megalodon was on the list of the largest aquatic inhabitants and stood on a par with the Mosasaurs, Deinosuchs, Pliosaurs, Basilosaurus, Gynosaurs, Cronosaurs, Purusosaurs and other animals, the sizes of which are larger than any living predators.
The teeth of the animal are considered the largest among all sharks ever living on Earth. The jaw was two meters wide. Five rows of powerful teeth were located in the mouth. Their total number reached 276 pieces. The inclined height could exceed 17 centimeters.
The vertebrae have survived to our days due to the high concentration of calcium, which helped to support the weight of the predator during muscle loads. The most famous vertebral column found consisted of 150 vertebrae with a diameter of up to 15 centimeters. Although in 2006 a vertebral column was found with a much larger diameter of the vertebrae - 26 centimeters.
Where does the megalodon shark live?
Photo: Ancient shark megalodon
Fossil remains of giant fish are found throughout, including the Mariana Trench at a depth of more than 10 kilometers. Widespread distribution indicates a good adaptability of the predator to any conditions, except in cold regions. Water temperature fluctuated around 12-27 ° C.
Sharks and vertebrae were found at different times in many regions of the planet:
- South and North America;
- New Zealand
- Puerto Rico;
Findings in fresh water are known in Venezuela, which makes it possible to judge fitness for being in fresh water, like a bull shark. The most ancient reliable finds date back to the Miocene era (20 million years ago), but there is news of the remains from the epochs of the Oligocene and Eocene (33 and 56 million years ago).
The inability to establish a clear time frame for the existence of the species is due to the uncertain boundary between the megalodon and its alleged ancestor Carcharocles chubutensis. Served for a gradual change in the signs of teeth during evolution.
The period of the extinction of the giants falls on the border of the Pliocene and Pleistocene, which began about 2.5 million years ago. Some scientists call the figure 1.7 million years ago. Relying on the theory of the growth rate of the crust of deposits, the researchers obtained an age of thousands and hundreds of years ago, but due to the different growth rates or their termination, this method is unreliable.
What does the megalodon shark eat?
Photo: Shark Megalodon
Prior to the appearance of toothed whales, super-predators occupied the top of the food pyramid. They had no equal in the extraction of food. Monstrous sizes, powerful jaws and huge teeth allowed them to hunt for large prey, which no modern shark could cope with.
An interesting fact: Ichthyologists believe that the predator had a short jaw and he did not know how to firmly grab the prey and dismember it, but only tore off pieces of the skin and superficial muscles. The bulk feeding mechanism was less effective than, for example, a mosasaur.
Fossil remains with traces of shark bites provide an opportunity to judge the diet of a giant:
- sperm whales;
- bowhead whales;
- minke whales;
- walrus-like dolphins;
- approved by theopsops.
Megalodon ate mainly animals ranging in size from 2 to 7 meters. Mostly these were baleen whales, whose speed was low and they could not resist sharks. But, despite this, the megalodon still needed a hunting strategy in order to catch them.
Traces of the bite of a huge shark were found on many of the remains of whales, and in some of them giant teeth even stuck out. In 2008, a group of ichthyologists calculated the strength of a predator's bite. It turned out that he was 9 times stronger grip the victim with his teeth than any modern fish and 3 times more powerful than the combed crocodile.
Features of character and lifestyle
Photo: Great Shark Megalodon
Basically, sharks attack the victim in vulnerable places. However, megalodon had a slightly different tactic. Rybina first rammed the prey. Similarly, they broke the victim’s bones and damaged internal organs. The victim lost the ability to move and the predator calmly ate it.
Especially large prey fish bit tails and fins so that they could not swim away, and then killed. Due to their weak endurance and low speed, megalodons could not pursue prey for a long time, so they attacked it from an ambush without risking to go on a long pursuit.
In the Pliocene era, with the advent of larger and more developed cetaceans, the marine giants had to change their strategy. They rammed precisely the chest to damage the heart and lungs of the victims, and the upper part of the spine. Biting flippers and fins.
A very common version is that large individuals, due to their slow metabolism and lower physical strength than young animals, ate more carrion and had little active hunting. Damage to the found remains could not speak of monster tactics, but of a method of extracting internal organs from the chest of dead fish.
Holding even a small whale by biting it in the back or chest would be extremely difficult. It would be simpler and more logical to attack prey in the stomach, as modern sharks do. This is confirmed by the great tooth strength of adult sharks. The teeth of young animals looked more like the teeth of today's white sharks.
Social structure and reproduction
Photo: Ancient shark megalodon
There is a theory that megalodon became extinct during the appearance of the Isthmus of Panama. During this period, climate changed, warm currents changed directions. It was here that a flock of teeth of the giant cubs was found. In shallow water, sharks led offspring and the kids lived here for the first time.
Throughout history, no such place has been found, but this does not mean that it does not exist. Shortly before this, a similar find was discovered in South Carolina, but it was the teeth of adults. The similarity of these discoveries is that both places were above sea level. This means that sharks either lived in shallow water, or sailed here for breeding.
Before this discovery, researchers claimed that the cubs of the giants did not need any protection, because this is the largest species on the planet. The findings confirm the hypothesis that the young live in shallow water in order to be able to protect themselves, because two-meter kids could well become the prey of another large shark.
It is assumed that at one time the huge underwater inhabitants could produce only one baby. The cubs were 2-3 meters long and attacked large animals immediately after birth. They hunted herds of sea cows and grabbed the first individual found.
Natural enemies of megalodon sharks
Photo: Giant Shark Megalodon
Despite the status of the top link in the food chain, the predator still had enemies, some of them were its food competitors.
Researchers consider them:
- pack predatory mammals;
- killer whales;
- toothed whales;
- some large sharks.
The killer whales that arose as a result of evolution were distinguished not only by a strong body and powerful teeth, but also by a more developed intellect. They hunted in packs, which is why the megalodon's chances of survival fell significantly. Orcas in their usual manner of behavior in groups attacked the young and ate the young.
Orcas excelled more in hunting. Due to their speed, they ate all the large fish in the ocean, leaving no food for the megalodon. Orcas themselves escaped from the fangs of an underwater monster with the help of their dexterity and ingenuity. Together, they could kill even adults.
Underwater monsters lived in a favorable period for the species, since there was practically no food competition, and a large number of slow, with undeveloped thinking whales, lived in the ocean. When the climate changed and the oceans became colder, their main food disappeared, which was the main reason for the extinction of the species.
The scarcity of large prey led to the constant hunger of giant fish. They sought food as desperate as possible. In times of famine, cannibalism became more frequent, and during the food crisis in the Pliocene era, the last individuals exterminated themselves.
Population and species status
Photo: Shark Megalodon
Fossil remains provide an opportunity to judge the multiplicity of the species and its wide distribution. However, several factors first affected the decrease in the population, and then the complete disappearance of megalodone. There is an opinion that the cause of extinction is the fault of the species itself, since animals cannot adapt to anything.
Paleontologists have different opinions about the negative factors that influenced the extinction of predators. Due to the change in the direction of the currents, warm streams ceased to get into the Arctic and the northern hemisphere became too cold for heat-loving sharks. The last populations lived in the southern hemisphere until they completely disappeared.
An interesting fact: Some ichthyologists believe that the species could survive until our time due to finds that supposedly are 24 thousand and 11 thousand years old. Allegations that only 5% of the ocean has been investigated give them hope that the predator can hide somewhere. However, this theory does not stand up to scientific criticism.
In November 2013, a video shot by the Japanese appeared on the Internet. It imprinted a huge shark, which the authors pass as the king of the ocean. The video was shot at a great depth of the Mariana Trench. However, opinions are divided and scientists believe that the video is falsified.
Which of the theories of the disappearance of the underwater giant is true, we are unlikely to ever know. Predators themselves will not be able to tell us about this, and scientists can only put forward theories and make assumptions. If such a whopper had survived to this day, it would have been noticed. However, there will always be a percentage of the probability of a monster surviving from the depths.