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Table of Contents
Megalodon went extinct 2.6 million years ago, but our fascination with the largest shark that ever lived is timeless. It was the biggest shark on Earth, but just how big was it? Because only fossil teeth remain, paleontologists estimate that they could have been around 52 – 59 feet. Imagine the largest modern-day shark, only three times bigger!
See the fact file below for more information on the Megalodon shark or alternatively, you can download our 20-page Megalodon shark worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- COMMON NAME: Megalodon
- SCIENTIFIC NAME: Carcharocles megalodon
- GENUS: Carcharocles (extinct sharks)
- CLASS: Chondrichthyes (cartilaginous fishes)
- TYPE: Prehistoric Animals
- DIET: Carnivores
- CONSERVATION STATUS: Extinct
- Most megalodon fossils date back to the middle Miocene epoch (15.9 million to 11.6 million years ago) and the Pliocene epoch (5.3 million to 2.6 million years ago).
SIZE and APPEARANCE
- Scientists suggest that the Megalodon resembled a stocky great white shark, though it may have looked similar to the basking shark or the sand tiger shark.
- Fossil remains of Megalodon suggest that this giant shark reached a length of about 18 meters. Their large jaws could exert a bite force of up to 11,065 to 18,579 kg (24,395 to 40,960 lb). Their teeth were thick and robust, built for grabbing prey and breaking bone.
- Fossil shark teeth provide almost all the information we have about prehistoric sharks, from where they lived to what they ate and how large they could grow. Shark teeth are the most abundant type of shark fossil because sharks shed thousands of them throughout their lifetime, because they fossilize easily, but also because sharks are cartilaginous, meaning, unlike dinosaurs, they don’t have bones that can turn into fossils.
- It is theorized that mature male Megalodon may have had a body mass of 12.6 to 33.9 metric tons, and mature females may have been 27.4 to 59.4 metric tons.
- Ichthyologist John E. Randall discovered a correlation between the great white’s largest upper teeth and the height of its jaws, as well as the enamel height of its teeth and its body length. Using these ratios as a model, megalodon teeth can reveal the size of a shark’s massive jaws and the length of its body.
- Many of us have seen megalodon jaws on display in museums, but these are replicas; their fossilized jaws have never been found. Scientists have reconstructed the Megalodon’s jaw using the great white shark’s jaw as a model.
- Early models theorized its length at 80 feet, but careful analysis of how tooth enamel height compares to body length in great whites brought the Megalodon’s size down by half. It was later discovered that this comparison applies to great whites up to 16 feet in length, after which their tooth enamel stops growing.
- If megalodon teeth worked the same way, scientists could conservatively estimate that it grew to 52 feet, with a possible maximum length of 59 feet, and that it weighed 40 tons or more.
- It is believed that Megalodon was the apex predator during its time, meaning it was on top of the food chain with no known predators.
- Fossil evidence indicates that Megalodon preyed on many cetacean species, such as dolphins, small whales, cetotheres, squalodontids, sperm whales, bowhead whales, and rorquals. In addition to this, they also targeted seals, sirenians, and large sea turtles.
- If they had a competitor, it would have been a predator of similar size and most likely other megalodons. Hypothetically, another dinosaur called the mosasaurus would have been a formidable opponent; however, these two species existed 66 million years apart (Mosasaur: 70-66 mya | Megalodon: 23-2.5 mya).
- This shark required a massive amount of food, and it’s been estimated an adult megalodon may have had to consume over a ton of food per day to sustain itself. Imagine how many whales, seals, and sea lions that would be!
- From the Miocene until the late Pliocene period, marine records indicate that an interval around 3.0–3.5 million years ago may have been a relatively warm period, at least in the North Atlantic.
- By the end of the Miocene Epoch, almost all the modern groups of whales had appeared, as had the early seals and walruses. These became the primary source of food for megalodons.
- The great white shark also existed when megalodons roamed the prehistoric seas.
- On land, evolution was at its peak for mammals and primates. It’s possible that our very early ancestors caught a glimpse of megalodons.
Did You Know?
- Infant/baby megalodons, called pups, were around 11 ft (3.5 meters) when born.
- Megalodon’s teeth were about the size of a banana or TV remote.
- Because they were constantly shedding teeth, Megalodons would lose thousands over a lifetime, and their teeth have been discovered in oceans all over the world.
- The Megalodon went extinct about 3.5 million years ago.
Megalodon shark Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle that includes everything you need to know about the Megalodon shark across 20 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Megalodon shark worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Megalodon which went extinct 2.6 million years ago, but our fascination with the largest shark that ever lived is timeless. It was the biggest shark on Earth, but just how big was it? Because only fossil teeth remain, paleontologists estimate that they could have been around 52 – 59 feet. Imagine the largest modern-day shark, only three times bigger!
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Megalodon Facts
- Quick Quiz
- Under the Sea
- Marine Match-up
- Megalodon and the Marine World
- End of Reign
Frequently Asked Questions
Why did megalodons become extinct?
The Megalodon was a warm water shark that needed a lot of large marine mammals to feed on. When the climate changed, and other marine mammals moved to colder waters, the megalodons were left without enough food to survive.
Did megalodons have a strong jaw and bite?
The Megalodon’s mouth was huge, and it had a powerful bite, even stronger than a T. Rex. It is guessed that their bite could crush a car.
Was the Megalodon the biggest shark ever?
The Megalodon was one of the largest fish ever to exist. It was about three times longer than the largest great white shark.
Is the megalodon a shark or a dinosaur?
The Megalodon is not a dinosaur. It is an extinct species of shark that lived millions of years ago.
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Use With Any Curriculum
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