Megalodon the terror of the Cenozoic oceans may well have been edged into extinction by one of the most docile mammals on the planet but new research reveals conclusive evidence proving otherwise with a fascinating insight into the feeding habits of Megalodons for the first time.
While Alberto Collareta, from the University of Pisa, Italy explains in the publication of the New Scientist, his paper published in the journal of Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology and Palaeoecology, that for the first time we can establish what was the exact species of prey for Megalodon sharks. Megalodon the extinct 50 tonnes, 60-foot behemoth shark with a gapping 10-foot jaw, the whale killer of the Oligocene and Pliocene epoch’s (28 m.y.a. to 2.6 m.y.a.). That's a run of over 25 million years of terror before falling off the fossil record into extinction. This is a serious time stamp on evolution.
Megalodon, a warm water feeder prevalent around what is now North America’s southern river beds. Feeding on early dwarf or Pygmy whales and seals. Early types of baleen whales; ‘Priscbalaena nana’ and large seals; ‘Priscophoca Pacifica are both around 5 metres long and around one-third of Megalodon’s length making these prey a perfect size for sustaining their diet from 1.5 to 28 million years ago. As it happens Today Baby humpbacks reaching around the 4-metre mark or less are attacked and drowned by ‘Dusky sharks’, scientifically know as ‘Carcharhinus obscures’. Carcharhinus obscures reach up to 2 to 3 metres in length a derive off the coast of South Africa. Begging the question, how close is our current climate to that of the Megalodon 1.5 to 28 million years ago?
The early dwarf Baleen whales and seals developed in warm shallow waters like modern species also do however millions of years ago, so did the Megalodon! Growing to enormous lengths of 16 meters with an array of replenish-able prolifically serrated edged teeth reaching up to 7.25 inches in size and weighing in at 50+ tons. (A modern-day mature 20 to 25-foot Great white shark have teeth ranging from 2 to 2.5 inches). These once fierce yet beautiful creatures roamed the prehistoric oceans and now leave their imprint in the fossil record for their prestigious teeth as seen in the photographs. Held in the hand you are really able to gauge the terror of these evolutionary engineered mammals of the Cenozoic era with up to a staggering 250 teeth reaching 7+ inches.
Megalodon bite marks are often found in large whale vertebra and bones, however, it is not yet clear whether this could have been due to scavenging carcasses. However, it is the opinion of many where these large fossil vertebrae’s are more often than not from smaller mammals than the Megalodon, suggesting the Megalodon would have easily shredded its way through to the bones of smaller prey. The large whales though may be key to Megalodon’s extinction, possibly the Megalodon was just too large to successfully hunt. Large whales development also coincided with climate change. As the poles became colder, trapping great quantities of ice whilst water levels
dropped on a global scale. This global change affected coastal regions and the Baleen whales ecosystems. Baleen type whales quickly began to decline whilst the remaining baleens were hunted by an ever-increasing demand from the hungry Megalodon’s which now were threatened and also began to decline at the top of the food chain. Whilst food habitats changed and seasonal rises in temperatures around the poles, this rapidly increased the migration of large whales which were much more capable of surviving in the colder waters whereas Megalodon favoured warmer waters leading to their demise.
Studies also show that when large sharks migrate from one domain or decline, smaller sharks will tend to thrive. A 6-year study by Catalina Piemiento from the University of Zurich points towards the decline in Megalodon coinciding with the development and adaptability of large whales however she claims further work is needed to fully establish her findings. The question is, could this also have added pressure to the Megalodon’s plight?
With Baleens in decline and seals changing habits, Megalodon continued on a steady decline towards their extinction. Scientific records show Baleens became extinct around 3 million years ago, opposed to megalodon which suffered to their decline at 1.5 million years when it followed suit, however other sharks took their place with their closest ancestor today, the Great white shark.