Writing Echoes

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The Megalodon Shark

Megalodon (from mega, big, and odon, teeth, which can be translated as ‘big teeth’) is an extinct species of shark which lived in the Cenozoic Era: 28 (late Oligocene) to 1.5 million years ago (early Plistocene).

Sharks are cartilaginous fish, which means that their skeleton is not made of bone, but cartilages. That is why we don’t have even remotely complete Megalodon fossils. Most that have been found are teeth and some vertebrae – as a matter of fact there is a partially recovered spine column that has around 150 vertebrae, the bigger ones having 11.5 cm in diameter. The total length that a Megalodon had has been calculated as something between 16 and 20 metres (that’s at least three times a Great White), with a mouth that was 3 metres tall and 2 metres wide.

Sharks have different (up to six) rows of teeth in their mouth, one behind the other. The gums ‘rotate’ to supply new teeth whenever the previous one falls – therefore they are always ‘changing’ their teeth. In numbers, that means that Megalodon had a total of about 275 teeth at any given time, 24 in the upper jaw and 22 in the lower jaw (Florida Museum of Natural History).

These teeth were triangular in shape with fine serrations alongside the borders and a visible v-shaped neck (the part which goes into the gum). Megalodon teeth can measure over 18 centimetres in diagonal.

Megalodon, like the Dunkleosteus fish (note that they did not co-exist) was an apex predator, and fed on anything that roamed the ocean. Sharks are known for their feeding frenzies, where they bite on anything that moves. Furthermore they explore things with their mouths (think of a baby which puts everything in his or her mouth), and the Megalodon should have been no exception: they fed mostly on marine mammals such as whales. It was a fast swimmer and rammed their preys to break their bones and crush their organs before killing and eating them. It would probably attack from underneath – sharks are darker on the dorsal side so you don’t see them from above and lighter on the ventral part so you don’s see them from below.

Comparison between a fossil Megalodon teeth and two Great White shark’s teeth, by Wikipedia Users Brocken Inaglory and Parzy

There is a bit of an Internet snoop going on about Megalodon surviving to today, and Discovery Channel sure as hell did not help with their docufucition in 2013, but such a creature roaming freely in the world’s ocean would not go unadverted, especially considering how Megalodon was widely spread when it was alive. It would have chewed on one too many boats by now for us not to have found out.

Which is a pity.

Then again. Are we sure the Titanic’s iceberg was such and iceberg?

[Base information: Wikipedia, Megalodon: Giant Shark]


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