Megalodons, colossal sharks that ruled the oceans around 20 million years ago, were three times longer than the great white shark. Megalodons were apex predators that had “no shortage of high-energy, edible options,” and could probably “eat a now-extinct 7-meter sperm whale in as few as four bites.”
And “a 3D model of the megalodon’s body suggests that its stomach could reach volumes of almost 10,000 liters—big enough to fit an entire orca.”
Mostly composed of cartilage, shark skeletons decay, only leaving behind remnants like teeth, vertebrae, and fossilized feces. Megalodon teeth, however, were so large that they ignited people’s imaginations; centuries ago, people thought megalodon teeth were the petrified tips of dragon tongues and believed that they offered medicinal protection.
It wasn’t until the 17th century that Danish naturalist Nicholas Steno dissected a great white shark’s head, and realized that “tongue stones” were supersized prehistoric shark teeth.
But how did an animal this large and powerful go extinct?
This TED-Ed by Jack Cooper and Catalina Pimiento, directed by Vitalii Nebelskyi, and action creative agency, shares what we know about the biggest shark that ever lived, as well as what probably contributed to its extinction. From the narration:
“By the time they disappeared around 3.5 million years ago, the global climate had cooled, causing more glaciers to form and the sea level to drop. This dried up many coastal habitats, meaning some of the world’s most resource-rich marine sites were lost.
“About a third of all marine megafauna eventually went extinct, so fewer prey species were available. And megalodons already faced high energetic demands because of their size and the mechanism they likely used to regulate their body temperature, which allowed them to navigate cold waters and attack prey with bursts of speed.
“Environmental changes may have made megalodons vulnerable and increasingly put them in competition with other predators, including the great white shark, a relative newcomer.”
There are more shark videos on TKSST, including:
• Fossil Sharks – The Brain Scoop
• Sea creature size comparisons
• Five big sharks that help keep our oceans healthy
• REMUS SharkCam: The hunter and the hunted
• The Basking Shark: A gentle giant with a piano-sized mouth