Giant sharks once roamed the seas, feasting on huge meals

Giant sharks once roamed the seas, feasting on huge meals

NEW YORK — Today’s sharks have nothing on their ancient cousins. A giant shark that roamed the oceans millions of years ago could have devoured a creature the size of a killer whale in just five bites, new research suggests.

For their study published Wednesday, researchers used fossil evidence to create a 3D model of the megalodon — one of the biggest predatory fish of all time — and find clues about its life.

At around 50 feet (16 meters) from nose to tail, the megalodon was bigger than a school bus, according to the study in the journal Science Advances. This is about twice to three times larger than the great white shark today. Megalodons were able to eat other large animals because of their gaping jaws. Researchers suggest that once it had filled up its huge stomach it was able to roam the oceans for several months.

The megalodon could also swim well: Its average speed at cruising was quicker than that of sharks and was capable of traversing multiple oceans without difficulty, the researchers calculated.

” It would have been a superpredator if it were to dominate its ecosystem,” stated John Hutchinson (co-author), who studies animal movement evolution at the Royal Veterinary College in England. “There is nothing really matching it.”

It’s been tough for scientists to get a clear picture of the megalodon, said study author Catalina Pimiento, a paleobiologist with the University of Zurich and Swansea University in Wales.

The skeleton is made of soft cartilage that doesn’t fossilize well, Pimiento said. So the scientists used what few fossils are available, including a rare collection of vertebrae that’s been at a Belgium museum since the 1860s.

Researchers also brought in a jaw’s worth of megalodon teeth, each as big as a human fist, Hutchinson said. The rest were fleshed out by scans of great white sharks.

Based on their digital creation, researchers calculated that the megalodon would have weighed around 70 tons, or as much as 10 elephants.

Even other high-level predators may have been lunch meat for the megalodon, which could open its jaw to almost 6 feet (2 meters) wide, Pimiento said.

Megalodons lived an estimated 23 million to 2. 6 million years ago.

Since megalodon fossils are rare, these kinds of models require a “leap of imagination,” said Michael Gottfried, a paleontologist at Michigan State University who was not involved in the study. But he said the study’s findings are reasonable based on what is known about the giant shark.


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