The megalodon is one of the most fearsome creatures to have ever walked the earth’s oceans – and some people believe it still is.
The basking shark, believed to have reached lengths of up to 65 feet and had 7-inch teeth, has long been a subject of fascination among science fiction writers – with the film ‘The Meg’ from the Year 2018, which features a group of scientists encountering the terrifying beast during a rescue mission at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.
So when a giant megalodon-shaped “creature” appeared on the “fish finder” scanner of a group of shark researchers in the Atlantic, they thought the plot of “The Meg” might actually come true.
Captured with Garmin GPSMAP 8600 units, the giant shark-shaped mass was about 50 feet long, weighed an estimated 40 tons, and lingered around the boat for about 15 minutes.
“Actually, it was kind of funny when one of the team said, ‘We’ve got a Meg under the boat.’ ‘We definitely used undersized equipment for that!’ the researchers from the Atlantic Shark Institute wrote in an Instagram post.
Unsurprisingly, however, the “creature” turned out to be nothing more than a large school of mackerel.
“We waited for one of the rods to go off, but to our great disappointment, the shape began to morph into a large school of Atlantic mackerel,” the researchers wrote.
“So close, but so far! The megalodon (Otodus megalodon) disappeared more than 3 million years ago and will probably stay that way, but for a few minutes we thought it had returned!’
Captured with Garmin GPSMAP 8600 units, the giant shark-shaped mass was about 50 feet long, weighed an estimated 40 tons, and lingered around the boat for about 15 minutes
How tall was the Meg?
With a dorsal fin the size of an adult human and a total length of up to 65 feet, the megalodon dwarfs the great white, which grows to a maximum of 15 to 20 feet in length.
In previous studies, scientists estimated that the Meg was up to 52 feet tall.
An individual of this size would likely have had a head about 15 feet long, a dorsal fin 5 feet 4 inches long, and a tail 12.6 feet tall.
This means that an average sized adult human could stand on the shark’s back and just manage to see over the top of the dorsal fin.
However, a new study suggests the calculations used to estimate a megalodon’s size were wrong.
Researchers now say the gigantic extinct shark could have grown up to 65 feet long — the size of a cricket pitch.
The megalodon is believed to be one of the largest predators that ever lived, and its earliest fossils date from 20 million years ago.
The giant shark ruled the oceans for 13 million years until it became extinct just 3.6 million years ago.
Not only was it the largest shark in the world, but one of the largest fish ever. It was estimated to be between 50 and 60 feet long – three times longer than the largest known great white shark.
A complete megalodon skeleton has never been found, as shark skeletons are made entirely of cartilage, which does not stand the test of time like bones.
Its estimated size is therefore based on the animal’s serrated teeth, which can reach 7 inches in length. The word megalodon simply means “big tooth”.
Its jaws are estimated to have been 9 feet by 11 feet wide – easily large enough to swallow two adult humans side by side.
Those jaws were lined with 276 teeth, and studies reconstructing the shark’s bite force suggest it may have been one of the most powerful predators to ever exist.
Megalodon is said to have eaten whales, large fish and other sharks. Some fossilized whale bones even have cut marks from megalodon teeth etched into the surface.
A study published last month by researchers at the Royal Veterinary College found the ancient animal was feeding on animals the size of killer whales when it roamed the oceans 11 million years ago.
After such a feeding, the ancient shark could survive for two months without further food, according to the researchers.
A complete megalodon skeleton has never been found, as shark skeletons are made entirely of cartilage, which does not stand the test of time like bones. Its estimated size is therefore based on the animal’s serrated teeth, which can reach 7 inches in length. The word megalodon simply means “big tooth”.
Gigantic: Previous studies suggest the megalodon has reached lengths of at least 50 feet (15 meters) and possibly up to 65 feet (20 meters).
Another University of Zurich study in June found that megalodon feasted on sperm whales because it was drawn to their giant noses, which are stuffed with oily saturated fats.
Meanwhile, a study published in May by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and Goethe University Frankfurt found that megalodons were driven to extinction by great white sharks, who crowded them out for food — despite being three times smaller.
The team analyzed the stable isotope ratios of zinc in the teeth of 20 living species and 13 fossil species, including the megalodon, to study an animal’s trophic level – how high up the food chain it feeds.
Their analysis found that when the great white shark and megalodon overlapped during the early Pliocene (5.3 to 3.6 million years ago), the trophic levels (position in the food web) of the two animals also overlapped.
This means the two species likely competed for the same food resources, including marine mammals.
Professor Kenshu Shimada, a professor at DePaul University in Chicago, said: “These results likely imply at least some overlap in the prey preyed upon by both shark species.
“While additional research is needed, our results appear to support the possibility of feeding competition by early Pliocene great white sharks with megalodon.”
The megalodon, meaning big tooth, lived 23 to 3.6 million years ago.
O. megalodon is considered one of the largest and most powerful predators in vertebrate history, and fossil remains suggest it grew to 65 feet in length.
The monster is believed to have looked like a stockier version of the now-feared great white shark, weighing up to 100 tons.
Megalodon is known from fossilized vertebrae and teeth that are triangular in shape and have a diagonal length of nearly eight inches.
It took famed fossil hunter Vito “Megalodon” Bertucci almost 20 years to reconstruct the jaw of a megalodon – the largest ever assembled – which is 11 feet wide and nearly 9 feet tall.
The megalodon’s colossal maw would have generated a force of 10.8 to 18.2 tons.
The ancient shark has been described as a super predator because it could swim at high speeds and quickly kill a variety of prey such as sea turtles and whales in its powerful jaws.