Megalodons Were One Of The Most Horrifying Creatures To Swim The Seven Seas
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.
- Photo: By Misslelauncherexpert, Matt Martyniuk / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0
It Was Larger Than Any Currently Living Shark
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.
- Photo: Spotty 11222 / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Its Jaws Could Crush Cars And Whales
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.
Its Fossil Record Is Incomplete Due To Its Skeletal Makeup
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.
In 2022, a study published in Historical Biology confirmed that scientists are still searching for proof of what the megalodon actually looked like. "The reality is that there are presently no scientific means to support or refute the accuracy of any of the previously published body forms of Otodus megalodon," the researchers said.
- Photo: Guillaume Baviere / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
It Probably Preferred Warm, Shallow Waters - Possibly To Its Detriment
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.
- Photo: Brook Ward / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
The Great White Shark Likely Did Not Evolve From Its Big Cousin
Although the teeth of the great white and the megalodon are similarly shaped, the animals are different species. Scientists say great white teeth more closely resemble those of a mako shark.
- Photo: Nobu Tamura / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0
It May Have Evolved From Another Giant Shark
Otodus was another super-sized shark that lived 45 to 60 million years ago. Some scientists think that this creature eventually evolved into the megalodon based on the teeth of the two creatures. The serrated teeth of the Otodus could have been the predecessors of the megalodon's flesh-ripping chompers.
The two likely had the same diet of large marine life during their time in the ocean.