Biggest Myths About Megalodon Movies Made Us Believe
At some earlier stages of research, scientists reconstructed the Megalodon looking like a bigger, just a little more dangerous version of a great white shark. Movies then followed suit, added a couple of details on their own and, ta-daa, we’ve got a marine giant that could grow up to 90 feet long.
Well, hold on, hold on. Megalodons were usually between 50 and 55 feet, sometimes growing up to 60 feet. For comparison, a bowling lane is 60 feet long, a school bus is around 45 feet, and an average person is 5 feet 10 inches tall. So yeah, not bad, Megalodon, but still not 90 feet. Its weight was around 50–60 tons, which is something like 10 adult elephants or even a Boeing 737. That’s just their females, though: the ladies were almost twice as big as the males.
Another movie vs. reality thing, the Megalodon had nothing to do with the great white shark. The closest they could be is cousins, because Megalodon, in fact, is the last descendant of a completely different lineage of sharks. Plus, its kind is around three times bigger than an average great white. It has a shorter nose and a much flatter jaw that almost looks like it’s squashed. Also, Meg’s pectoral fins are longer than those of the great white shark’s. Ancient predators ate a lot, so they needed something to support their weight.
They both had an excellent sense of smell, though, so even in the prehistoric times, it wasn’t a good idea to go swimming with a chunk of raw meat in hand. And it certainly isn’t safe now! Whether the Meg’s hiding somewhere in the depths, which some still believe is true, or it’s gone forever, younger cousins will be there waiting! Also, both of them liked to go after big marine mammals, so they would certainly have things to do together. That is, until the Meg got moody and “accidentally” ate its friend. Eh, you never know.
These guys had a different hunting style. Great whites prefer to dive straight toward their prey and find its softest spots, like exposed legs or underbelly. Megalodon aimed for the fins and tail: because of its almost 10-foot jaws and what’s considered to be the strongest bite ever, its teeth could pierce almost anything. Sometimes, an entire tooth would be found embedded in a bone of some bigger animal, such as a whale. Without the main parts they use for swimming, poor sea animals were then helpless and unable to escape.
Yet whales were just a “smaller” part of Megalodon’s diet. Seals, sea cows, squids, dolphins, other sharks — the good old Meg probably wouldn’t say no to some random school of smaller fish swimming into its mouth either. Nothing better than a good snack after a big, tasty dinner. Even those giant turtles weren’t safe within their thick shells — the Meg probably took those as a “dare” challenge on a daily basis.
Such a diverse diet — and in big amounts. Megalodon would eat about 2,500 pounds of food every day. No wonder it dominated the ocean! Almost 300 teeth in five rows — and we’re talking about sharp chompers that could grow up to 7 inches long. Even its name stands for “giant tooth”! Hey, I’m thinking maybe it had a cousin, “Orthodontia” which means either for crooked teeth, or deep pockets.
Still, a Megalodon would change thousands of teeth over a lifetime. Since Meg’s teeth weren’t that strong, they would often fall out. Then, it would get new ones within 1–2 days, so it could continue its hunting sessions without any serious interruptions. The same thing happens with modern sharks as well: new teeth replace damaged or worn out ones. Those teeth falling out were the only thing that helped scientists do any research on the Megalodon at all — they found them all around the world. Yup, Megalodons were quite some travelers: they lived in all oceans, and their fossils were found on all continents except Antarctica. What? Too cold?
Since their skeletons were not made of bone but of cartilage, teeth are the only evidence they’ve ever even existed. They gave scientists an insight into a lot of things, including size. Even with modern sharks, scientists determine their size by the dimensions of only one tooth — and do the same with the Meg. Megalodon had the strongest bite of all living creatures on Earth. It would definitely be fun to see the clash between the Meg and, say, T-Rex. Sadly, they missed their chance to meet and establish some long-term friendship since dinosaurs went extinct over 60 million years ago. Meg, on the other hand, terrified all the inhabitants of the seas and oceans from 23 to 2.5 million years ago.
Where could Megalodon live these days? Well, it would probably love the places modern sharks go too, such as Florida, Hawaii, Brazil, South Africa, or some other tropical paradise. Hmm, when you think about it, it’s not bad at all. Meg, take me with you? Meg itself didn’t have any serious competition or a natural enemy, but its infants were too weak to defend themselves. That’s why the apex predator had to choose warm, shallow waters with no strong currents to raise its babies. Those, by the way, were around 6-and-a-half feet long — not quite tiny themselves.
Scientists actually found some of their juveniles’ teeth, so it seems like part of their nursery areas was the coast of Panama. And that’s 10-million years old! Okay, time to meet one of the Megalodon’s potential rivals: the mighty sperm whale! 45–60 feet long — the size sure makes it quite an adversary. Modern sperm whales don’t have such big teeth, but their ancestors, which lived around 13 million years ago, were well-packed: the largest tooth found was 5 inches wide and 14 inches long — that’s something like the biggest soda bottle out there. That would make an interesting combat...
Here we’re talking about this giant marine predator, but this is not the only intriguing ancient animal that wandered the oceans. In fact, sharks are some of the oldest creatures on our planet, more ancient than insects, mammals, dinosaurs — even trees. Mass extinction events wiped out most life on Earth, giant asteroids fell on its surface, continents split up, and so many other things happened...but sharks were there, alive, persevering, apparently with no contact with the outside world — just chillin’ and doin’ their thing.
The spiny shark was actually one of the first animals with a jaw. Not that it could do much with that jaw, since it was only around 12 inches long. Meh, the Meg wouldn’t even bother around this one. And it wasn’t even a real shark — it just looked like one.
If you ever wondered how a combination of eel and shark would look like — well, here it is! Eel shark preferred freshwater, was up to 3 feet long, and — went extinct around 200 million years ago. Since dinosaurs appeared around 230 million years ago, the eel shark was probably there to give them a warm welcome, prepare a buffet — but dinosaurs had unfortunately mistaken it for a dessert.
Now, this predator would get some real screams on a nice, sandy beach during a spring break if it was still alive: the Ginsu shark. It was nicknamed after Ginsu knives for a huge mouth of almost 500 razor-sharp teeth. One of this monster shark’s hobbies was to go after big turtles — okay, now seriously, what’s with that shark-turtle thing?
Scissor-toothed sharks — now we’re talking. These guys lived around 300 million years ago and had some strangely shaped heads. The weirdest part were their jaws: this shark didn’t shed old and worn-out teeth but kept growing new ones at the back. Those in the front were then pushed forward, and with age, the shark got a really strange ’scissor-tooth’ look. Scientists are still unsure why it had to be like that. Hey time to call in the Orthodon!
Even during the Meg’s long reign, our favorite ancient predator still wasn’t the only scary giant shark in town. For instance... um well, I can’t pronounce its name, so I’ll just call it Mr. C. Unfortunately, not enough of its fossils were found to get more information, but some research says it had teeth more than 5 inches long. That also implies it could probably grow to be 20 feet long. Oh, if it only left just a couple of more teeth around... I guess the Meg wouldn’t be the only movie star from those times. So close, C. So close.