The reason megalodon sharks went extinct has been revealed as scientists solve a mystery

Enormous megalodons were once the world’s largest sharks, but the sea monsters may have been killed by their smaller relative, scientists have found

A giant megalodon shark swims after a pod of striped dolphins
A giant megalodon shark swims after a pod of striped dolphins

The world’s largest shark, Megalodon, may have been killed by the Great White, scientists have revealed.

The researchers found that megalodon faced competition for food from its smaller and more nimble rival.

The prehistoric shark lived between 3.6 million and 23 million years ago and was known for its enormous teeth.

Its name means ‘big tooth’, with its jaws described as ‘the ultimate cutting tools’, wide and triangular and as large as a human hand.

Examination of fossilized teeth shows that megalodons hunted the same animals as the

Big white

including whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Co-author Professor Kenshu Shimada of DePaul University, Chicago, said: “These results likely imply at least some overlap in the prey preyed on by both shark species.”

Analysis of zinc levels revealed that they were at the top of the food chain, meaning they were not eaten by anything.

A great white swimming the ocean


(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

An international team has compiled a database of values ​​from 20 living and prehistoric shark species, ranging from aquarium and wild animals to megalodon.

Co-author Prof Michael Griffiths of William Paterson University, New Jersey, said: “Our results show that both Megalodon and its ancestor were in fact apex predators – feeding high up in their respective food chains.

“What was really remarkable are the zinc isotope values ​​of early Pliocene shark teeth from North Carolina, which indicate that the trophic levels of the early great white sharks largely overlap with those of the much larger megalodon.”

Megalodon was three and a half times larger than the great white shark — reaching 65 feet in length and weighing more than 50 tons.

Tooth of Megatooth Shark, Carcharodon Megalodon or Carcharocles Megalodon


(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Fossil remains of Megalodon in the Caldera Parish in the Atacama Desert, Chile



Its 7-inch jagged fangs and weird swirls are all that’s left.

A shark’s skeleton is made of cartilage that rarely survives fossilization.

The sea monster ruled the oceans between 23 million and 3.6 million years ago. Its sudden extinction has puzzled evolutionists for decades.

Megalodon was eight feet tall at birth, dwarfing most humans. Descendants would have been particularly vulnerable to starvation.

Zinc in tooth enamel, the highly mineralized portion, showed the degree of consumption of animal matter.

Prehistoric megalodon shark tooth and two great white shark teeth


(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The results were as reliable as the more established nitrogen assay of collagen – the organic tissue in dentin.

The lead author Dr. Jeremy McCormack of Goethe University Frankfurt said: “Collagen is not preserved on the timescales we studied and traditional nitrogen isotope analysis is therefore not possible.”

The behemoth had to eat a lot of large prey to survive, including whales, large fish — and likely other sharks.

Co-author Prof. Thomas Tutken from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz added: “Here we show for the first time that dietary zinc isotope signatures are preserved in the highly mineralized enamel crown of fossil shark teeth.”

A 3D rendering shows the megalodon from prehistoric times


(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The study in Nature Communications compared the zinc levels of numerous extinct shark species from the megalodon era to those of modern species.

They also studied the ratios in megalodon teeth and its ancestors, as well as modern-day great white sharks, to shed light on their impact on past ecosystems – and each other.

Some believe the megalodon might still be alive as it was the premise for the 2018 Hollywood blockbuster The Meg starring action man Jason Statham.

But Prof. Shimada said it was impossible.

The inner jaws of a Megalodon



As a warm-water species, it would not be able to survive in the cold waters of the deep, its only chance of going unnoticed.

He said: “While additional research is needed, our results appear to support the possibility of foraging competition by Megalodon with early Pliocene great white sharks.”

New isotope methods such as zinc are promising tools to study diet, ecology and evolution in other fossil marine vertebrates and offer a unique window into the past.

dr McCormack added, “Our research demonstrates the feasibility of using zinc isotopes to study the diet and ecology of extinct animals over millions of years, a method that can also be applied to other groups of fossil animals – including our own ancestors.”

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