Our planet is very large and rich in diversity. Both in fauna and flora, we have a wide variety of species. However, whether by natural selection or by man’s interference in the environment, some animals have completely disappeared without even leaving a couple to be able to return to live among us.
Several “monsters” have lived on Earth in the most varied habitats. The megalodon is historically considered the largest shark that ever lived on Earth. His name means “great and mighty”. However, he is like a ghost in the paleontological record.
This animal is known in the fossil record mainly because of its giant teeth that have survived millions of years. The teeth remained even after the animal’s cartilage skeleton had completely decomposed. And it is from these teeth, which are usually larger than a human hand, that scientists estimate the size of the animal. It is thought that the megalodon’s jaw could easily swallow an adult and have room to spare.
However, measuring the size of a shark from its teeth and some vertebrae is not an exact science. Especially when the species in question has gone extinct and may have been made in a different way than the sharks that are seen today.
Estimates for the size of the megalodon range from 11 to over 40 meters in length. However, it usually sets around 15 to 18 meters in length.
Now, a new method for calculating megalodon size based on the width of its teeth suggests that previous figures actually underestimated the animal’s actual size. This new method suggests that the megalodon is about 20 meters long.
This discovery was made casually with the help of students. “I was quite surprised that no one had thought of this before. The simple beauty of this method must have been too obvious to see. Our model was much more stable than previous approaches. This collaboration was a wonderful example of why working with amateur paleontologists is so important,” said paleontologist Ronny Maik Leder of the German Natural History Museum.
Although megalodon skeletons are absent from the fossil record, their teeth abound. These animals lived approximately 3.6 million years ago and dominated the ocean at that time.
Throughout their lives, sharks lose and grow their teeth continuously, reaching 40,000 teeth before dying. A megalodon had up to 276 teeth in its mouth at any one time.
In this quest to estimate the size of the animal through the tooth, scientists often use equations and also have to find out where the tooth would be in the shark’s mouth. After that, they use the equation for that position.
The new method isn’t perfect either. After all, the teeth of some sharks are closer together than in other animals of the same species. And scientists don’t have this information about the megalodon. However, this new research may bring researchers closer to assessing the true size of this fearsome giant of antiquity.
“While this potentially advances our understanding, we still haven’t resolved the question of how big the megalodon was. There is still more that could be done, but that would probably require finding a complete skeleton at this point,” concluded paleontologist Victor Perez.…