Megalodon is a Greek name given to a now extinct giant shark that roamed the world’s oceans between about 2 and 25 million years ago. Megalodon literally means “big tooth”. It is the fossilized teeth that tell us much about what we now know was a ‘super predator’; the king of the oceans.
The teeth were so large that early finds were once believed to be petrified tongues of the dragons.
Estimates vary, but we are confident that Megalodon grew to about 15 metres in length and quite possibly to 30 metres and was the largest shark ever to exist.
Megalodon (gray and red) with the whale shark (violet), great white shark (green), and a human (black) for scale. Note: The maximum size attained by megalodon is indicated by the 20 m scale. Wikipedia
Scientists are certain that Megalodon preyed on whales, dolphins, and possibly giant sea turtles. Whale bones (including vertebrae and flippers) have been found with clear signs of large bite marks made by teeth that match those of Megalodon. Additionally, some geological excavations have found the giant teeth with the chewed remains of ancient whales.
In 2008 Dr. Stephen Wroe conducted experiments to determine the bite force of Megalodon. He found that very large specimens were capable of exerting a bite force of up to 275 Mpa (40,000 pounds per square inch); over 5 times greater than that of T. rex).
Megalodon was probably the most powerful predator to have lived on Earth.
Most sharks are opportunistic; they will feed on a wide range of species and even scavenge for food. Some large sharks (including the great white shark which is a distant relative of Megalodon) attack their prey with great force.
Their strategy is to inflict as much damage as possible and then follow their prey until it dies from blood loss. This not only saves energy but avoids the risk of injury in a fight to the death.
Scientists believe that Megalodon was no different than today’s big sharks. Fossil evidence shows that Megalodon attacked the larger whale’s flippers (with their large blood vessels) and the rib cage. In both instances the prey would have bled to death quickly.
Sharks like Megalodon have ‘sawing’ teeth that can carve out huge chunks of meat from their victims.
A reconstructed jaw of Megalodon shows the replacement teeth that would move up to maintain a sharp bite.
Megalodon’s jaws would have opened to a size of 2m wide and 2.3 m high. Its bite could have held as much as 5-6 m3 of flesh or about 6 tonnes of food.
Thanks to Wikipedia for educational photos and illustration.