Model of megalodon jaws at the American Museum of Natural History
Model of megalodon jaws at the American Museum of Natural History
    1. Megalodon, meaning “big tooth”, is an extinct species of shark that lived approximately 23 to 3.6 million years ago, during the Early Miocene to the Pliocene.
    2. It’s one of the largest predators to have ever lived. Estimates suggest it could grow up to 60 feet (18 meters) long, though some argue it could have been even bigger.
    3. The Megalodon’s teeth were built for grabbing prey and breaking bone. They were thick and robust, built like daggers, and could grow over 7 inches long.
    4. Despite its size, the Megalodon was likely a fast swimmer. It was a powerful predator that could tackle even large prehistoric whales.
    5. Megalodon likely had a strong bite. Some scientists estimate its bite force to have been around 10.8 to 18.2 tons, which is the strongest bite force of any creature ever.
    6. Like modern sharks, Megalodon continually grew new teeth throughout its life. Some Megalodons may have produced tens of thousands of teeth.
    7. Fossil evidence of Megalodon primarily consists of teeth and vertebrae, as the rest of the shark’s skeleton was composed of cartilage, which doesn’t fossilize well.
    8. Megalodon had a global distribution and fossils have been found all over the world, from tropical to temperate seas.
    9. It’s unclear why Megalodon went extinct, but it likely involved a combination of climate change, shifting food sources, and competition with other predators.
    10. Megalodon isn’t the direct ancestor of the great white shark, but they’re distant cousins. They both belong to the shark family Lamnidae.
    11. Megalodon would have been at the very top of the food chain, and likely had a significant impact on the structuring of marine communities.
    12. The Megalodon’s large size could be attributed to live birthing and cannibalism in utero, a phenomenon where larger embryos eat smaller embryos.
    13. Scientists believe that juvenile Megalodons likely preferred shallow, coastal waters, where they would have access to ample food and protection from larger predators.
    14. Due to their large size and power, Megalodons likely didn’t face threats from any species other than their own.
    15. The earliest known fossils of Megalodon are about 20 million years old.
    16. Megalodon’s closest living relative is the Carcharodon carcharias, or the great white shark.
    17. Megalodon’s diet consisted of a variety of marine animals, including giant whales, small whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and large fishes.
    18. Megalodon’s swimming speed is estimated to have been 11 to 13 mph, but bursts of speed could have reached 31 mph.
    19. There’s a popular but incorrect belief that Megalodon still exists today in the deep ocean. There’s no scientific evidence to support this claim.
    20. The Megalodon has entered popular culture as a great and monstrous beast, being featured in movies, books, and video games.

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