Fact #1. The Megalodon Shark Was The Largest Predator That Ever Lived.

Reaching lengths of up to 60 feet and an estimated maximum weight of over 60 tons, the Megalodon is the largest known predator in Earth’s history. The modern Sperm Whale is longer, but probably not as heavy as the Megalodon. To compare this size, the largest modern Great White sharks max out around 23 feet and 3 ½ tons. This makes the Megalodon nearly 3 times as long, and 20 times and heavy as the Great White Shark.

Megalodon size compared with a Whale Shark, modern Great White Shark and human.

Megalodon size compared with a Whale Shark, modern Great White Shark and human.

The Megalodon’s massive size also dwarfs that of the large, extinct marine reptiles like the Mosasaurus, Tylosaurus and Liopleurodon on a weight basis.

Because shark skeletons are made of cartilage that doesn’t fossilized easily, scientists just have the teeth to go on when estimating maximum size. This has caused a wide range of maximum sizes to be proposed over the years, depending on the methodology used, but most scientifically accepted maximum sizes fall in the 50-60 foot range.

Fact #2. The Megalodon’s Teeth Could Reach Sizes Over 7 Inches

While most adult Megalodon teeth fell into the 4-5” size range, a few massive, fossil teeth have been found in excess of 7” The largest verifiable Megalodon tooth is a 7.48” tooth found near Ocucaje, Peru.  Compare that to the Great White shark whose teeth reached a maximum size of under 3 inches in the largest individuals.  Reconstructions of the Megalodon’s jaw suggest they may have been up to 7 feet across.

largest megalodon tooth

Largest verifiable Megalodon tooth at 7.48″ long. Photo credit Craig Sundell

Fact #3. The Megalodon Is NOT Closely Related To The Great White Shark

Contrary to popular belief, fossil evidence shows that the Megalodon is NOT in fact closely related to the Great White Shark. When the Megalodon was first described based on fossil teeth in 1843, it was put in the same genus as the Great White shark, Carcharodon . They both had big, serrated teeth and were the marine apex predators of their time. So they must be related, right? But, as our understanding of shark taxonomy has grown and new fossil discoveries have filled gaps in the fossil record, it’s become apparent this assumption was not correct and a new Carcharocles genus was created.

The Megalodon likely represented the end-point in a chronospecies, or a single evolutionary line that can be traced back nearly 60 million years to the Otodus shark.  At the same time the research has shown that the Mako Shark and Great White Shark and closely related. Fossils show that they both likely evolved from the extinct Broad Tooth Mako (Isurus hastalis), branching off about 5 million years ago.  So, while popular media often represents that the Megalodon and Great White are closely related, that statement doesn’t match the fossil evidence or the consensus view among researchers.

Fact #4. The Megalodon Ate Whales For Breakfast

This gigantic shark obviously required a massive amount of food and it’s been estimated an adult Megalodon may have had to consume over a ton of food per day to sustain itself. Fossil evidence points to the Megalodon preying on whales and other large marine mammals such as Sea Cows and Sea Lions.

Many fossil whale bones have been found with clear signs of large, bite marks made by teeth matching the Megalodon’s Other excavations have found Megalodon teeth lying next to the chewed remains of whales.

Reconstructed Megalodon jaw at the National Aquarium in Baltimore

Reconstructed Megalodon jaw at the National Aquarium in Baltimore

Fact #5. Teeth Are Relatively Common Fossils

Surprising to some, fossil Megalodon teeth are relatively common fossils in many areas of the world. Like other sharks the Megalodon lost it’s teeth as it grew, they became worn or broken. Their teeth also were very solid and fossilized quite easily. While Megalodon teeth in general can be quite common, large or exceptionally well preserved specimens can be very rare, and can fetch big bucks from collectors. For example, 7” Megalodon teeth are so rare, the last one sold for nearly $50k, while small or broken teeth can be quite inexpensive.

Bone Valley, Florida Megalodon Tooth

Colorful Bone Valley, Florida Megalodon Tooth

680-wide-megs

Fact #6. The Megalodon Had A Cosmopolitan Or World-Wide Distribution

Fossil teeth of the Megalodon have been found world wide from regions including North and South America, Europe, Africa, as well as Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica, the Canary Islands, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Malta, Grenadines and India. It appears to have lived anywhere the ocean was warm enough and food sources plentiful enough to sustain it.

Fact #7. The Megalodon Went Extinct Around 2.6 Million Years Ago

Unless you believe a bunch of CGI, made up “evidence” and actors masquerading as scientists on the Discovery channel the Megalodon shark extinct around 2.6 million years ago. During this time, the Earth underwent significant climate changes which would have but significant pressures on the Megalodon. The Oceans cooled and sea levels dropped, and many large marine mammals which the Megalodon relied on for food disappeared during this approximate time.

Fact #8. The Megalodon Had The Most Powerful Bite of Any Known Animal

The Megalodon is believed to have had the most powerful bite of any animal, and it’s not even close. Computer models estimate the Megalodon’s bite force between 24,000 to 40,000 pounds (10,900 to 18,100 kilograms), This is 6-10 times that of the Great White shark and modern crocodiles, This is also 2-3 times that of the estimated bite force of 12,800 pounds for T-Rex and the large Mosasaurs. This enormous bite force could literally bite a small whale in half.

Fact #9. Several Megalodon Nursery Areas Have Been Discovered

The Megalodon gave birth to it’s young in shallow water enviroments. Several suspected nursery areas have been identified based on the high concentrations of small Megalodon teeth, many only about 1 ½ inches in length. These suspected nursery areas include the Bone Valley Region of Florida, the Calvert Cliffs in Maryland and the recently described nursery in the Gatum Formation of Panama.

Juvenile and adult Megalodon tooth

University of Florida vertebrate paleontology graduate student Dana Ehret holds a juvenile and adult Megalodon tooth up for comparison.

Fact #10. The Megalodon Had About 276 Teeth In 5 Rows

Like modern sharks, the Megalodon discarded it’s teeth frequently as they became worn. It likely have 5 rows of teeth, which acted like a conveyer belt, so that lost teeth could be replaced rapidly, likely within 24-48 hours. While tooth loss rates are poorly understood even in modern-day sharks, it’s likely that a Megalodon went through thousands of teeth during it’s lifetime. The vast majority of fossil Megalodon teeth that are collected show significant feeding wear to the tip, someones with the tips completely sheered off due to hitting bone or other teeth during feeding.

Reconstructed Megalodon jaw showing rows of teeth that would act as replacements for damaged teeth.

Reconstructed Megalodon jaw showing rows of teeth that would act as replacements for damaged teeth.