The History of the Megalodon

Armed to the Teeth: Sizing Up Megalodon’s Massive Mouth

Carcharocles megalodon—known as megalodon or “The Monster Shark”—is the stuff of beachgoers’ nightmares. Measuring about 60 feet long and weighing up to 77 tons, it makes the 9-ton T-Rex look approachable in comparison. If this colossal creature was lurking beneath the waves with an empty belly, humans wouldn’t stand a chance.

But don’t cancel your beach vacation just yet! The megalodon has been extinct for about 2.6 million years, so you can swim with confidence knowing a shark three times larger than the great white is long gone. For 10 million years, though, this fearsome apex predator roamed our waters hunting for dolphins, porpoises, large whales, giant sea turtles and other large marine animals.

Sharks are cartilaginous, so when they die, their bodies completely decompose, leaving nothing but teeth for paleontologists to study. Our current knowledge of the megalodon originated from fossilized teeth and the fossils of other animals, such as whales, which showed evidence of megalodon attacks.

Scientists have discovered megalodon teeth measuring 7 inches. Now imagine a jaw filled with 276 of those teeth aligned in five rows, plus a bite force of up to 2 tons. It’s about as far from cute and cuddly as you can get. Oh, and by the way, whenever these teeth became dull, they were quickly replaced by new sharp ones waiting for their moment to shine.

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Photo source: Flickr: Wally Gobetz / Creative Commons

Even after millions of years, megalodon teeth can remain razor sharp. If you’ve ever had the urge to hold a shark tooth as big as your hand, you can actually go digging for one in Sharktooth Hill, California, where most known fossilized megalodon teeth have been discovered.

Or you could just visit the National Aquarium and see a massive megalodon jaw for yourself. Our realistic replica gives you a taste of what prehistoric prey were up against.


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