On July 15th, 2021, Discovery launched a new special: The Mystery of the Black Demon Shark.
The promise of the show is hair-raising: hunting a shark as dark as the night that could grow up to 60-feet long! For perspective, that size would mean the black demon shark (known to locals as El Domonio Negro) could even be larger than megalodon, the ancient shark some scientists believe could weigh up to 100 times an average great white shark.
What exactly is the black demon shark and is there any chance a shark of its size exists today? Let’s dig in below!
The Origins of the Black Demon Shark
Here are the key ideas behind the legend of the black demon shark:
- Reported sightings of the shark have been in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California.
- The description of the shark is that its extremely large (perhaps up to 60 feet long).
- In addition, its skin color is described as “black as night” and compared to the color of ash.
- Its said the shark’s mouth is wide enough to consume a whale.
The Sea of Cortez itself features more than 170 species of sharks and has abundant biodiversity that includes giant squids and great white sharks. Yet, the idea of a shark of El Domonio Negro‘s size is still hard to believe. To date, a couple of major television programs have hunted for the shark.
MonsterQuest: The First Hunt for the Black Demon Shark
History Channel’s show MonsterQuest went on the hunt for the black demon shark in 2009. The full episode is embedded below:
The episode titled — Mega Jaws – features several interviews with local fishermen who claimed to have seen a shark of massive proportions. In addition, both boats and planes hunted for new shark sightings. Their conclusion: misidentification of other large fish in the area was leading to the legend of the black demon shark.
Mystery of the Black Demon Shark: Discovery Channel Goes in Search
At the conclusion of Shark Week 2021, Discovery ran a special named Mystery of the Black Demon Shark. On the show, a team from Discovery towed two inflatable blue whales and played whale audio to try luring larger sharks. In addition, the team dumped a mixture meant to recreate whale milk into the sea.
Similar to MonsterQuest, the show pointed to mistaken sightings of whale sharks being the most likely explanation for black demon sharks. While whale sharks are not black, when viewing them from above water their silhouettes are often extremely dark. In addition, they have gaping mouths (meant to feed on zooplankton rather than large fish and mammals) that could cause confusion in local fishermen.
What Animal Could the Black Demon Shark Be: Whale Sharks, Great Whites, or Manta Rays?
- Whale shark: Whale sharks are located in the Sea of Cortez and grow upward of 60 feet, making them the longest fish on Earth. While non-predatory, their size could lead to confusion among local fishermen.
- Manta rays: Manta rays occupy the Sea of Cortez and are large and fascinating animals. Not only can they reach 23-feet across, but have the largest brains of any fish. Most importantly, they’re often completely black across their top, which could lead to confusion and legends of a massive black demon shark across the Sea of Cortez.
- Great white shark: While great white sharks are significantly smaller than reports of the black demon shark, tales of the shark could simply be exaggerated tales of great whites themselves.
Could the Black Demon Shark be a Megalodon?
Megalodons were incredibly large sharks that first evolved around 20 million years ago and were apex predators across the seas for millions of years. With their incredible size (potentially up to 50 times the weight of today’s largest great whites), they’ve captivated the world’s attention.
Today, thanks to movies like The Meg, kids are as likely to know megalodon as other prehistoric predators like Tyrannosaurus Rex.
So, is there a chance megalodons could survive today? The short answer is: it’s extremely unlikely. No fossil records of megalodon extend beyond 2.6 million years ago. Our full article on megalodon breaks down all the theories for the species’ extinction, but the bottom line is there is overwhelming evidence none have existed in the past million years.
History Channel’s MonsterQuest examined a megalodon tooth that was reportedly only 10,000 years old, yet it’s worth noting that many dinosaur fossils have been dated to the wrong eras as fossils often erode and are re-preserved in newer rock. The tooth studied on the show wasn’t datable with current scientific testing.