Thursday, July 21, 2011

Creature Feature: Megalodon.

As I was saying yesterday, sharks are the most feared creatures in the sea. If people see a shark fin sticking up from the water, the whole beach gets evacuated. The sail of the deadly man-o'-war may be mistaken as an inflatable pool toy, but the fin of a shark looks sinister. Never mind the rows upon rows of teeth in its mouth, or that its torpedo-shaped body is much better adapted than yours for swimming.

Hell, sharks even made the mammoths piss themselves. Sharks have been around since before the dinosaurs, but did not reach the epitome of "death by teeth" until the Cenozoic. The monster of the seas back then was not the Great White, but a far more massive shark called megalodon. (Carcharodon megalodon? Nobody's really sure.)

C. megalodon was the terror of the ancient seas.  Fossils show that it ate dolphins and could easily have swallowed modern dolphins whole. A single tooth was 7 inches long. This thing made Jaws look like a cute, fluffy kitten.

What did it eat? Everything. Nothing was bigger than C. megalodon. It joins Andrewsarchus in the "We know this thing was huge, but we don't know how huge," category. All we can guess is that this was a gigantic shark from the teeth alone. What we have says that it should have been around 16 meters (52 feet) in length. That's larger than the whale shark, which is a giant plankton-eater.

The largest TWO are megalodon.

How the hell did this massive predator die out? Cooler waters and a shortage of food.  For once, humans are not to blame at all. Other predators, including orca relatives, simply gave C. megalodon trouble. Yes, it ate delphinids, but the dolphins and whales were eating its food right back. Flipper has once again saved us from shark attack.

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