Sunday, February 10, 2013

Megalodon: Prehistoric Animal of the Week

dun DUN...dun DUN...dunDUNdunDUNdunDUNDUNDUNDUNDUN!  That's how I type shark music.  Why?  Because this week's prehistoric animal is a giant shark that's why.  Enter Carcharodon megalodon, the largest shark the earth has ever known. 

Life reconstruction by Christopher DiPiazza (based on modern Great White Shark)

During the renaissance, people were finding gigantic triangular teeth and thought they were fossilized tongues from dragons (like large animal fossils often are).  Danish scientist, Nicolas Stenos, finally found out they were indeed teeth from a gigantic prehistoric shark (just as impressive as a dragon if you ask me).  Since then megalodon teeth have been discovered on every continent except Antarctica. 

Nicolas Steno's illustration of megalodon from the 1600s.

 Like all sharks, most of megalodon's skeleton was made of cartilage (same material that is in our noses and ears) instead of bone.  That being said only fossils of its teeth, jaws, and a little of its backbone have ever been discovered.  Judging by the size of these fossils (Some of the teeth found are over seven inches long) this fish is estimated to have been over fifty feet long from nose to tail.  To put it into perspective that's the same size as a modern Humpback Whale.   It lived after the great extinction that killed off most of the dinosaurs and was actually alive much closer in time to us.  The youngest megalodon fossil is less than two million years old from the Pleistocene so it would have lived during the same time as many animals that are alive or similar to those that are alive today including early humans. 

megalodon jaws on display at the Baltimore Aquarium.

Like I said before very little of megalodon is actually on the fossil record.  Don't get me wrong, the teeth are really common actually (since sharks tend to shed them a lot).  Its just that very little else of the animal's body is known.  However, since the teeth of this shark are so similar to that of a modern Great White Shark's (Carcharodon carcarias) it is likely megalodon looked very similar if not much the same...just a lot bigger.  The two are even assigned to the same genus, Carcharodon

Not that long ago the Discovery channel decided to do a fake documentary on merpeople (did I mention its a fake documentary?  Yeah, I know its the Discovery Channel.  Just go with it.) called "Mermaid: the Body Found".  There was a segment when a merman gets totally eaten by a megalodon.  Not something you see all that often!

Yup.  That just happened.  Feel free to watch again if you don't believe yourself.  This week's prehistoric animal was requested by a fan on our facebook page.  If there is an animal you would like to see reviewed next give me a shout (or type it in the comments section or the facebook page)!  

Works Cited

 Bruner, J. C. (Sept.-Oct. 1997). "The Megatooth shark, Carcharodon megalodon: Rough toothed, huge toothed". Mundo Marino Revista Internacional de Vida (non-refereed) (Marina) 5: 6–11

Haven, Kendall (1997). 100 Greatest Science Discoveries of All Time. Libraries Unlimited. pp. 25–26. ISBN 1-59158-265-2.

Pimiento, Catalina; Dana J. Ehret, Bruce J. MacFadden, and Gordon Hubbell (May 10, 2010). Stepanova, Anna. ed. "Ancient Nursery Area for the Extinct Giant Shark Megalodon from the Miocene of Panama"

1 comment:

  1. awsome i think there could really be a megalodon out there