Jason Statham's 2018 movie may be a work of fiction, but there is a real-life monster behind The Meg: the 60-foot-long prehistoric sea creature known as the megalodon. The movie paints the shark-like monster as something that still lives in the ocean, but this apex predator likely died out millions and millions of years ago - or did it?
Fossils prove the megalodon was real, and in fact went extinct. But that doesn't stop some believers from claiming the creature still swims the depths like a real-life Godzilla. These megalodon facts paint a formidable picture: It was larger than any creature now living, and it could destroy a Tyrannosaurus rex.
The megalodon reached lengths of 60 feet during its time at the top of the prehistoric food chain. At an average of 23 feet long, the great white shark is roughly the same length as its ancestor's male reproductive organ.
Whale and basking sharks are closer to the megalodon's size, but still fall short at 46 and 33 feet long, respectively.
Studies conducted by Stephen Wroe of the University of New South Wales in Australia found that the large jaws of the megalodon likely generated a maximum 4,000 pounds of bite force pressure. Its bite force was 10 times that of the great white shark, and even greater than that of the fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex. Theoretically, the prehistoric shark could use its jaws to smash a car like a junkyard crusher - although its approximately 7-inch long teeth would likely not survive.
Fossils of baleen whales living at the same time as the megalodon show bite marks from the fearsome creature - the real reason for the strong jaws.
Shark skeletons contain lots of cartilage, which does not hold up well after death. As a result, the megalodon's fossil record is incomplete. Estimates of the shark's appearance are based on what scientists have available to them: its teeth. The characteristics of megalodon teeth have led scientists to believe they were housed in a broad jaw. Sharks with broad jaws generally have a shorter face, like the great white.
Data collected from baleen whale bones with megalodon tooth marks have allowed other theories to emerge about how the giant shark looked.
Scientists theorize the megalodon lived in shallow waters with temperatures on the warmer side. The water off the shores of Panama likely served as a home for megalodon moms and babies, based on the smaller teeth collected from that location.
This preference for warmer water may have assisted in the extinction of the creature when the waters grew colder. The megalodon may have been unable to evolve to withstand the drop in temperature. It's possible the giant shark's prey moved on, as well.