The following photo has been making the rounds on the Internet, purportedly showing a fossil Megalodon tooth still embedded in a whale vertebra. Sure, it’s pretty “badass” as the caption claims, but is it real?

Megalodon teeth are relatively common fossils in some areas of the world. This extinct, mega shark, had a huge mouthful of teeth, and like modern-day sharks it lost it’s teeth frequently due to feeding damage. These teeth were quite hard and readily fossilized.

megalodon-tooth-in-vertIn the case of the pictured fossil, both the Megalodon tooth and the whale vertebrae are real, several million year old fossils found in the SE United States, but the tooth has been mounted in the vertebrae for dramatic purposes. There are a couple people selling these fabrications on sites, like Ebay, their cool but not exactly accurate.

Yes, large, adult Megalodon sharks feasted on whales, but their massive bit force would have caused the tooth to break rather than being embedded intact in a vertebrae. It’s actually pretty common to find large fossil Megalodon teeth with feeding damage where the tip has been sheared off. Similarly it’s not uncommon to find fossil whale bones which punctures and scrapes from shark teeth, but I’ve never heard of one being found with a intact tooth still embedded in it. That would be pretty close due to the physics involved with the massive bite forces.

Check out this blog post if you want to see some photos of actual Megalodon bite marks on fossils and broken Megalodon teeth.