Discover The Apex Shark Predator That May Have Been The Largest Ever

Written by Joan W.
Published: July 14, 2022
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Sharks are some of the most fascinating creatures in the ocean. Their sleek bodies, enormous teeth, and predatory instincts make them fearsome creatures. If you’ve ever seen a shark in real life, you know that they’re also beautiful. Their fins shimmer in the sunlight as they move through the water.

Because they keep other species in check, sharks are an important part of our ecosystem. They are large and powerful enough to prey on smaller fish that are too slow or weak to escape their jaws.

Sharks are the ultimate predators, but did you know that they were once prey? A team of researchers from Princeton University recently discovered that a 50-foot-long marine predator once feasted on sharks.

Secrets Recovered from Ancient Shark Teeth

Scientists can recover a lot of information from fossilized bones, but sharks don’t have bones. Their skeletons are made of softer cartilage that doesn’t hold as much information and material for researchers to use. 

However, scientists found a fossilized shark skeleton with tooth marks etched onto it. This finding surprised them because it meant there was a predator larger than the shark feeding on it.

Since nothing that large exists in the oceans today, researchers had to assume they were looking at the teeth marks of an extinct creature. Most ancient shark skeletons are long gone, but sharks do create one abundant and lasting fossil record – their teeth.

Unlike people who only get one set of adult teeth, sharks are constantly growing and losing teeth. For example, modern sand sharks lose a tooth every day of their decades-long lives.

Teeth are very hard and covered with an enamel that reveals critical information about what a shark ate while it was alive, so they make great fossils. Scientists have shark teeth that are more than 400 million years old, and from some of these teeth, they were able to reconstruct the ultimate ocean predator: the Megalodon.

Megalodon tooth
Comparison of fossilized Megalodon and Great White Shark teeth.

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An Extinct Shark Called Megalodon Once Ruled the Oceans With Its Fearsome Jaws

Now extinct, the megalodon evolved after the dinosaurs and ruled the seas until only 3 million years ago. At 50 feet long, this giant probably had the most powerful jaws ever seen on land or sea. Imagine how sailing would have changed if this enormous shark still lived in our oceans!

The name “megalodon” means “big tooth” in Greek. This ancient shark certainly had a mouthful—with teeth almost 12 inches long! It was a carnivore (meat-eater) and ate fish, whales, dolphins, sharks, and other sea creatures using its sharp teeth.

But megalodon is extinct now: its fossilized remains have been found in many places around the world.

The Megalodon Was an Apex Predator, and Possibly the Largest Marine Predator That Has Ever Existed

Likely the largest marine predator that has ever existed, the megalodon was a massive predator of the oceans. It weighed as much as 100 tons, which is as much as a 757 airplane! An enormous Tyrannosaurus rex was only about eight tons.

Some scientists believe they might have been even bigger because there is some evidence they could grow up to 65 feet. That’s about the size of a truck with a semi-trailer. Imagine something that size with foot-long teeth emerging out of the sea!

The megalodons were top predators in their food chain, meaning they ate other sea creatures but weren’t eaten by anything else themselves (except perhaps another giant shark). It was an incredibly powerful predator that could eat almost anything it wanted, including whales and other large fish like tuna and sailfish. The jaws of the megalodon were so powerful they could crush bone.

The fossilized teeth researchers have from ancient megalodon are triangle-shaped. This means their jaws were like powerful scissors that could bite right through flesh and bone. Anything smaller than the megalodon was food to them, including giant squid!

The Megalodon Ruled the World’s Oceans for 15 Million Years

What is most astonishing about this research confirming the giant size and apex predator status of the megalodon is how long they ruled the seas. They were the largest marine predator ever, with no natural predators, and inhabited the top spot in the ocean food chain for 15 million years. 

By comparison, humans, as we know them today, have only been around for about 300,000 years! 

The megalodon traveled far and wide around the world’s oceans. Their teeth have been found in areas as far apart as South Carolina and Peru, which means they traveled great distances to hunt big prey like whales and giant squid.

The Megalodon and Great White Shark May Have the Same Ancestors

Scientists have long been interested in the origin of the now-extinct megalodon. Fossil records show that they were around when sea levels were much lower than they are today and many species, including sharks, adapted to this change in environment by growing larger.

The megalodon’s lineage first appeared about 60 million years ago. As far back as scientists can trace this line of great sharks, they were huge. The first-known member of this lineage was longer than a great white shark.

Tracing back to the Cretaceous Period (145.5 and 65.5 million years ago), the megalodon may belong to the lineage of lamnoid sharks (Lamniformes). Other sharks in this lineage include mako, the great white, and thresher sharks, among others. 

While the great white was thought to be the megalodon’s closest relative for a long time, current science suggests they lived at the same time. The megalodon may be closely related to a smaller but faster ancestor of the mako sharks.

Megalodon hunting
A huge Megalodon shark swims after a pod of Striped dolphins.

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This Giant’s Prehistoric Shark Teeth Are One of the Most Collected Fossils in the World

Everybody loves a big shark. Megalodon teeth are one of the most collected fossils in the world, and you’ll find them in museums around the globe. Megalodon teeth are some of the most common fossils found on our planet. 

The fact that these prehistoric sharks were so large helps explain why they were able to take down prey as large as whales and dolphins. It is thought that this enormous shark had several rows of teeth, enabling it to bite through whales with ease – including one instance where it bit clean through a sperm whale‘s head!

If you’re interested in adding a piece of this giant’s history to your collection, check out the megalodon tooth selection on Amazon.

Why Did the Megalodon Go Instinct?

It’s a question that has stumped scientists for years: why did the megalodon go extinct?

Well, we may have an answer.

Recent research suggests that the global climate changed dramatically just before the end of the Cenozoic Era, during which humans evolved. Specifically, there was a significant shift in water temperature over short periods. This change affected the area where megalodons could thrive and led to their extinction.

At the same time, because of these changes to their environment, many species that megalodon preyed upon vanished forever. These changes were not limited to just one part of the world; they occurred all over the globe at roughly the same time.

Megalodon is a fascinating animal and one of the most popular prehistoric sharks.

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The Featured Image

Megalodon close-up
Megalodon's extinction could be due to many different factors.
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About the Author

Joan Weisman is an experienced freelance marketing strategist and copywriter who helps small businesses expand their audience and stay top of mind with customers. She loves animals and dotes on her cat and dog.

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