The Megalodon is an ancient species of shark, now extinct. The term is of Greek origin and means ‘big tooth’. The Megalodon was an aquatic animal and took in oxygen through its gills. It lived in warmer waters and ruled the oceans, as an apex predator, during the Cenozoic Era. However the squalondon, a prehistoric whale was a marine mammal that combatted the Megalodon when attacked or threatened.
FACT 1: The Cenozoic Era began 65 million years ago and continues to the present day. It is the third documented era of the history of the Earth. The current locations of the continents and all modern inhabitants can be traced to this Era. The Cenozoic Era is divided into 3 periods. The middle period is the Neogene Period which lasted from 23 to 2.6 million years ago. It includes the Miocene and Pliocene Epochs. The Megalodon appeared during the late Miocene and was around till the end of the Pliocene Epoch (15.9 to 2.6 million years ago).
FACT 2: Like the modern day sharks and rays the Megalodon skeleton was made of cartilage. Cartilage is a soft tissue and does not usually fossilize. The teeth of the Megalodon are the only evidence of the great shark’s existence.
FACT 3: The teeth of the Megalodon are about 6 inches long and have saw like tips. They had four rows of teeth in each jaw.
FACT 4: The size and shape of the Megalodon teeth provide vital clues to the animal’s size and diet. On an average the Megalodon was between 50 and 60 feet long. It weighed between 60 and 115 tons. It fed on whales, fish, dugongs, smaller sharks and sea turtles.
FACT 5: Unlike modern day sharks the Megalodon did not lay eggs, but gave birth to its young. Scientists have discovered juvenile Megalodon teeth in the Isthmus of Panama. From this and various other clues they have concluded that the Megalodon, like the modern shark, established nursery areas for the protection of the vulnerable young.
FACT 6: The time of extinction of the Megalodon is estimated at 2.6 million years ago. This has been inferred by researchers using a model called the Optimal Linear Model. Climate change leading to altered migration patterns of whales, may have led to the decline and eventual extinction of the Megalodon.
FACT 7: The modern gigantic filter feeding whales were established after the extinction of the Megalodon. This phenomenon provides scientists with an insight to the response of marine species to the removal of an apex predator.
FACT 8: The Great White Shark is today one of the most powerful and potentially dangerous sharks. This shark has fired the imagination of many authors and film makers, and starred in the motion picture ‘Jaws’. For 150 years palaeontologists believed that the Megalodon was the ancestor of the Great White Shark.
FACT 9: In November 2012 a new fossil species called the ‘mako shark’ was discovered. Today palaeontologists are shifting to the belief that modern Great White Shark is descended from the ‘mako shark’. However consensus has not yet been reached.
FACT 10: In a quarry in Aurora, North Carolina, a full set of original Megalodon teeth was discovered. This unusual discovery, led to the opening of the exhibit of a new exhibit at the North Caroline Aquarium at Fort Fisher. The exhibit named ‘Megalodon: Diving with North Carolinas Ultimate Predator’ was inaugurated on July 1, 2011. It includes dynamic 3D animations, interactive videos and displays a complete set of realistic Megalodon teeth. Visitors get a close up perspective that highlights the awesome size and power of the Megalodon.