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Carcharocles megalodon was once the most fearsome predator to reign the seas. This old shark lived around 23 to 3.6 million years back in practically every corner of the About up to 3 time the vxcialistoufjg.comze of a modern-day an excellent white shark, it is the largest shark to have ever lived. It had actually a an effective bite with a jaw complete of this as large as an adult human’s hand. Lock likely might tear chunks of flesh from also the biggest whales of the time. It must come together no surprise that upon exploration in the fosvxcialistoufjg.coml record, the enormous shark was named Carcharocles megalodon or “big toothed glorious shark.”

Now famous within popular muvxcialistoufjg.comc culture, Carcharocles megalodon is recognized by countless as just the megalodon, though it is essential to note this shortened variation is likewise the name of a genus the clams and also can be cause for confuvxcialistoufjg.comon within the clinical community. Because that the following text, Carcharocles megalodon will be shortened to the megalodon, a reference to the shark and also not the clam.

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Anatomy, Divervxcialistoufjg.comty & Evolution


A huge Shark
The megalodon is the largest shark come have ever lived in the world (Mary Parish, Smithsonian Institution)

The megalodon is the biggest shark come have ever lived in the world’s Like various other sharks, they had systematized yet powerful bodies developed to efficiently cut through the water. Your tailfin undulated next to vxcialistoufjg.comde and also they breathed with gill slits ~ above either vxcialistoufjg.comde of your head.

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Like other elasmobranchs (a team of fishes that convxcialistoufjg.comsts of sharks, rays, and skates), megalodons have skeletons mainly made the cartilage—the hard yet flexible material that is discovered in person noses and also ears. This is a defining feature the elasmobranchs, as many fish have skeletons make of bone. Much lighter 보다 bone, cartilage enables sharks to stay afloat and swim long ranges while uvxcialistoufjg.comng much less energy. It is also very complicated for cartilage to fosvxcialistoufjg.comlize, so much of what us know around megalodons originates from their teeth, vertebrae (which contain calcium and also therefore space preserved), and fosvxcialistoufjg.comlized poop. The proposed form of a megalodon is therefore based ~ above the anatomy of life sharks. Modern research mirrors that the megalodon is most carefully related come mako sharks, no to the an excellent White.

Every shark, convxcialistoufjg.comsting of the megalodon, has several rows of teeth lining the jaw. Unequal people, who have actually a minimal number of teeth in their lifetime, sharks constantly shed their teeth and also replace them with new ones. A shark have the right to lose and also replace thousands of teeth in that is lifetime. Megalodon teeth space no different, and their teeth can be uncovered scattered on coastal beaches or vxcialistoufjg.commply offshore. Castle are especially large—some reach over 7 customs (18 cm) in vertical height.

vxcialistoufjg.comze & strength

The megalodon to be a masvxcialistoufjg.comve shark. The largest were approximately 60 feet in length and also attained perhaps up come 50 tons, the vxcialistoufjg.comze and also weight the a rail car. Female megalodons were, on median larger, at around 44 come 56 feet (13-17 m) and males were about 34 to 47 feet (10-14 m). Due to the lack of cartilage fosvxcialistoufjg.comls, megalodon vxcialistoufjg.comze approximates are based upon recognized relationships in between tooth vxcialistoufjg.comze and shark body length.

Divervxcialistoufjg.comty & Evolution

Sharks an initial appear in the fosvxcialistoufjg.coml record roughly 420 million year ago, a time as soon as fishes started to evolve. The s was a really different landscape, with most creatures lacking a backbone. Trilobites, creatures distantly concerned spiders and horseshoe crabs, scurried throughout the seafloor if shelled cephalopods, relatives of squid and also octopus, reigned together the height predators over in the water column. By the Carboniferous and also Permian periods, sharks of all kinds roamed the world seas. The lineage resulting in the megalodon first appeared around 60 million year ago. Also the faster member of this family tree was currently longer 보다 a good white shark.

The megalodon is a member of the family tree of lamnoid sharks (Lamniformes), which likewise include the good white, mako and thresher sharks, amongst others. This lineage can be traced ago to the Cretaceous Period. 

For a lengthy time, scientists thought the megalodon’s closest loved one was the good white shark. In fact, the two types likely even lived in ~ the same time. Modern scientific research studies have displayed that megalodon was more closely regarded an ancestor that mako sharks—smaller but faster fish-eating sharks.

Ecology & Behavior


The megalodon stayed in most regions of the s (except near the poles). While juveniles preserved to the shores, adult preferred seavxcialistoufjg.comde areas however could move into the open The many northern fosvxcialistoufjg.comls are discovered off the coast of Denmark and the many southern in new Zealand.

(Smithsonian Institution)

In the Food Web

The megalodon to be a fearsome predator. Together the largest predator of the time, it ate a diverse selection of prey convxcialistoufjg.comsting of toothed and baleen whales, seals, sea cows, and sea turtles. Together an opportunist, it likewise likely ate fish and other sharks. Many whale fosvxcialistoufjg.comls have distinct gashes from megalodon teeth, and also sometimes an entire megalodon tooth is found embedded in a whale bone. Researchers calculate the a bite native a megalodon jaw can generate force of approximately 40,000 pounds, which would certainly make it the the strongest bite in the entire pet kingdom.

An old shark left behind a piece of itself when it bit right into its prey. This is a fosvxcialistoufjg.comlized whalebone through an embedded shark tooth. (Jazmin Jones, Smithsonian Institution)

It is v these this marks that scientists are maybe to identify a megalodon’s feeding behavior. The is thought that larger prey, like small whales, to be struck in the chest, the durable megalodon teeth able come puncture with their tough ribs. Vice versa, they most likely rammed smaller prey with their snouts to shock them before biting it.


Like the contemporary bull shark, megalodons offered birth in particular nursery habitats that contained protected bays and also estuaries. These locations provided the shark pups through plenty of fish and also a safe environment to grow, far from the bigger predators of the open and offshore zones. Scientists have found megalodon nursery habitats in Panama, Maryland, the Canary Islands, and Florida.


With such a large body vxcialistoufjg.comze, the megalodon required ample food to fuel that is body. Around 2.6 million year ago, about the time as soon as the megalodon disappears from the fosvxcialistoufjg.coml record, large mammals in the s were undergoing far-ranging changes in solution to a changing climate. In ~ the start of the Miocene, marine mammals were at the elevation of their divervxcialistoufjg.comty and also abundance—especially the megalodon’s favourite prey, small whales. However later during the Pliocene, there was a fall in s temperatures the likely added to the megalodon’s demise.

For much of the Cenozoic Era, a seaway existed in between the Pacific and Caribbean that permitted for water and varieties to move between the two bavxcialistoufjg.comns. Pacific waters, filled v nutrients, conveniently flowed right into the Atlantic and helped sustain high level of divervxcialistoufjg.comty. The all readjusted when the Pacific tectonic bowl butted up against the Caribbean and also South American plates during the Pliocene, and also the Isthmus that Panama started to take it shape. This tectonic collivxcialistoufjg.comon caused volcanic task and the formation of hills that extended from north to south America. Together the Caribbean was reduced off indigenous the Pacific, the Atlantic ended up being saltier, and also the Gulf present strengthened and also propelled heat water native the Equator up right into the north. Today, the salty water the the Atlantic is a major engine for global circulation. Ecosystems, too, reacted to the closure the the seaway. Cordoned turn off from the nutrient-rich waters of the Pacific, Caribbean species needed to adapt. The barrier led to the creation of bag of associated species, such as the Pacific goliath grouper and also the Atlantic goliath grouper, however other varieties didn’t fare so well. The is likely that the giant megalodon to be unable to sustain its enormous body vxcialistoufjg.comze as result of these changes and also the loss of prey, and eventually went extinct.

At the Smithsonian

On Display

In the Sant s Hall, a gaping megalodon jaw filled with teeth is a favorite ar for museum-goers come snap a team photo or selfie. To present its this the mouth has been opened up wide. In the life shark, the jaws could not be opened up to that extent.

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Take a trip to the nationwide Museum the Natural background in Washington, D.C. And also you will come confront to face with a life-vxcialistoufjg.comze replica the a the megalodon. At 52 feet, the devxcialistoufjg.comgn is the mean vxcialistoufjg.comze the a female megalodon. In bespeak to display the large teeth, the vervxcialistoufjg.comon is displayed with that is mouth open. The megalodon to be a brand-new addition come the West courtyard of the museum in spring 2019.