One of the most formidable animals, both for its size and for its predatory nature, that has lived on our planet is the megalodon shark. It is estimated that this prehistoric shark populated the seas of the entire planet during a period of time that would extend from 19.8 million years ago to 2.6 million years, at which time the world population of the megalodon began to decline drastically until its complete disappearance.
Megalodon shark information: period, size and feeding
To start talking about these incredible prehistoric animals, we will comment a little on their characteristics based on this information about the megalodon shark :
Period in which the megalodon shark lived
The megalodon shark ( Carcharodon megalodon ) is an extinct species of shark that inhabited the oceans of practically the entire planet during the Cenozoic period (specifically from the early Miocene to the end of the Pliocene). Its name derives from the Greek words megas (large) and odon (tooth), in reference to the large size of its jaw and its teeth, since only one of its teeth could measure about 15 cm or more.
How tall is the megalodon shark
Thanks to its teeth and other bones found, the scientific community determined the size of the megalodon shark, considering an adult individual, it could easily measure up to 18 meters in length , which makes it one of the largest predators ever. populated the oceans of the Earth.
Beyond its jaw and imposing size, the megalodon shark looked similar to a modern white shark. However, today’s great white sharks reach a size that ranges between 6 and 8 meters in length, which makes them “small” animals compared to the prehistoric megalodon shark .
What does the megalodon shark eat – feeding
The megalodon shark was the king of the seas for more than 17 million years. It fed on prey of various sizes, among which were the large whales of the time. He had a preference for the warm waters of the tropics. In fact, the coastal areas of these waters were their preferred spaces for breeding. However, more or less suddenly, the megalodon shark population began to decline at the end of the Pliocene period until it reached its complete extinction.
It should be said that paleontologists who have studied the fossils of the megalodon shark (which is the main source of information we have today) have not been able to give a concrete answer to the reason for the extinction of this great prehistoric marine predator. In this way, all that is being considered are various theories that could influence its decline. Today, the theory that has gained the most force among the majority of the scientific community is that it was a series of fortuitous events that, in short, ended up leading to the extinction of the species. These are the reasons for the extinction of the megalodon shark according to science :
The Isthmus of Panama and climate change
At the time the megalodon lived, the distribution of the continents was different than it is today. This meant that, in turn, the climate was also different, specifically much warmer than the one we have today. However, when the continent of North America and the continent of South America came together to form the current Isthmus of Panama, this caused a change in the distribution of marine currents, which resulted in a global climate change and the start of a great ice age. The consequence of this great glaciation was that the seas became much colder, thus reducing the breeding areas and habitat areas of the megalodon shark, which would be a possible explanation for its decline.
Less food for the megalodon
However, although the cooling of the waters and the reduction of the breeding areas of the megalodon would be reason enough for the disappearance of this predator, it must also be taken into account that the new ice age would affect other animals of the time.
In fact, many of them would be part of the trophic chain that served as food for the megalodon. In this way, to the reduction of the breeding areas and the cooling of the waters, the shortage of food would be added as an element that would lead to their extinction. In fact, some paleontologists affirm that, given the scarcity of food, the fossils seem to reveal that some megalodons have resorted to cannibalism, causing the species to weaken even more when the youngest specimens die in the jaws of the subjects that had already reached maturity and a larger size.
Competition with other species
Finally, if all of the above had not been enough, in the period in which the glaciation began in which the megalodon shark became extinct, other species also appeared that, although smaller in size, constituted considerable competition for megalodons a time to find food. A good example of these animals would be some cetaceans such as the first killer whales and other species of whales that, although it is true that they were also possible prey for the megalodon shark, they also competed with them for food and posed a threat against the one that had been the undisputed king of the seas for millions of years.
According to the current opinion of paleontologists, and most of the current scientific community, the combination of these three causes, initially caused by climate change arising from the union of the two American continents, would explain why the megalodon shark.
One of the myths that has arisen around these animals has originated from the fact that many people still wonder if the megalodon shark is still alive or not . Therefore, this myth maintains that, although these gigantic animals are believed to be extinct, in reality there would still be some living specimens of megalodon shark swimming in the oceans. However, due to its scarcity and its great resemblance to the great white shark, sightings would be very rare and, when they did occur, they could be mistaken for simple white sharks under the inexperienced eye that would not know how to differentiate the current species from its version. prehistoric.
In this sense, the scientific community maintains that there is a 99.9% probability that the megalodon shark is effectively extinct and that, in reality, there are not sufficiently solid indications to suggest that this prehistoric predator could continue to swim hidden in some parts from the ocean. In fact, one of the strongest arguments put forward to affirm the megalodon extinction is the existence of the great white shark itself, which would be nothing other than the evolution of the megalodon specimens that managed to adapt to the new climate that arose as a result of climate change. that started the glaciation that was the trigger for its extinction.