Scientists have discovered Megalodon’s true size

Hyperaxion Sep 4, 2020

Megalodons lived between 23 million and 3 million years ago. Researchers estimate that it had a bite force of more than ten tons.

Between 23 million and three million years ago, the ocean was filled with megalodons (Carcharocles megalodon), the huge “cousins” of great white sharks.

Scientists have discovered Megalodon's true size
Carcharocles megalodon. (Credit: Oliver E. Demuth).

Scientists have long tried to find out how big these animals really were – and now they seem to have succeeded.

In an article recently published in Scientific Reports, a team led by the University of Bristol and Swansea University, both in the United Kingdom, released an estimate of the animal’s size.

Truly gigantic

According to the researchers, a megalodon was about 16 meters (52 feet) long – with a head that was 4.65 meters long (nearly a third of the size of the entire body). Its dorsal fin and tail were 1.62 meters and 3.85 meters, respectively.

For comparison, a great white shark is 6 meters (20 feet) long.

Megalodon’s bite force was no less than 10 tons. The great white shark’s bite force, in turn, is 2 tons.

(A) an adult megalodon; (B) a baby megalodon; (C) a teenage megalodon; (D) compared to a human.
(A) an adult megalodon; (B) a baby megalodon; (C) a teenage megalodon; (D) compared to a human. (Credit: Oliver E. Demuth).

Few fossils

Today there are very few traces of these animals, mostly teeth, which is why the research was so challenging. As scientists say in the article, they used a series of mathematical models to determine the size and proportions of megalodons, making comparisons with a variety of living “relatives” with ecological and physiological similarities.

“Megalodon was actually the very animal that inspired me to pursue palaeontology in the first place at just six years old, so I was over the moon to get a chance to study it,” said Jack Cooper, from the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences.

“This was my dream project. But to study the whole animal is difficult considering that all we really have are lots of isolated teeth.”

The fin of a megalodon compared to a human.
The fin of a megalodon compared to a human. (Credit: Oliver E. Demuth).

Promising results

Fortunately, the strategy worked – and not just to estimate the size of the animal, but to broaden our understanding of its family.

“Megalodon is not a direct ancestor of the Great White but is equally related to other macropredatory sharks such as the Makos, Salmon shark and Porbeagle shark, as well as the Great white,” said shark expert Dr. Catalina Pimiento, from Swansea University.

Related topics:

Megalodon Sharks


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