For centuries, people have looked into the dark oceans and wondered if an enormous monster lurks beneath. During the Cenozoic Era, the largest and most ominous predator known to man roamed Earth’s oceans for eighteen million years. Carcharodon Megalodon (known simply as Megalodon) is believed to be the ancient ancestor of the modern day Great White shark, one of the most feared predators known to mankind. Megalodon was estimated to be four times the size of the Great White (Carcharadon Carcharis).
But what proof do we have that this creature ever existed? Surprisingly, evidence of Megalodon’s existence lies not in our oceans but on land. Huge fossilized teeth have been recovered from places once covered by water on the continents of North America, Europe, South America, and South Africa.[i] Fossil sites in North America include coastal locations in Florida, Maryland, and North Carolina. This fossil evidence indicates that Megalodon lived between two and twenty million years ago. Its extinction is estimated to have occurred near the end of the Pliocene Epoch of the Cenozoic Era.[ii]
The Megalodon was massive, even at birth, having a length ranging from seven to ten feet and a weight of about five hundred pounds.[iii] Juvenile Megalodon had at least two hundred seventy-six teeth arranged in at least six rows.[iv] Each individual tooth measured 5-10 inches tall.[v]
The adult Megalodon was even more colossal, growing to an average length of sixty to ninety feet and a weight of fifty to seventy tons.[vi] The largest Megalodon that ever lived was estimated to weigh 206,000 pounds. It could also grow to a width of thirty feet. Megalodon had over 200 vertebrae, each measuring seven inches in diameter.2 Its lifespan is believed to have been eighty to one hundred years.
Although the existence of the Megalodon inspires fear in humans, researchers believe that its diet consisted of large marine mammals such as the blue or sperm whale. In order to maintain its tremendous size, it was necessary for Megalodon to consume up to 2,500 pounds of food per day.3 Megalodon is believed to have been capable of eating anything and everything in the world’s oceans.[vii]
Megalodon was perhaps the most fearsome predator ever to have lived. Although our knowledge of its existence is limited, fossil evidence has provided scientists insight into its possible habitat, physical characteristics, longevity, and diet.
[i] Everhart, Mike. Sea Monsters: Prehistoric Creatures of the Deep.
Washington D.C.: National Geographic, 2007. Print.
[ii] Arnold, Caroline. Giant Shark Megalodon, Prehistoric Super Predator. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000. Print.
[iii] Bradley, Timothy. Paleo Sharks: Survival of the Strongest.
New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1996. Print.
[iv] “Megalodon: Largest Shark That Ever Lived!” Florida Museum of
Natural History Ichthyology Department. Web.
[v] Strauss, Bob. “Megalodon Facts.” About.com Guide. Web.
[vi] Gavira Guerrero, Angeles; Frances, Peter; Palmer, Douglas. Prehistoric Life. New York: DK Publishing, 2009. Print.
7 “Megalodon – Shark Glossary.” Enchanted Learning. Web. 1996-2010. <www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/sharks/glossary/megalodon.shtml>