A ground-breaking study by scientists at the University of Bristol showed that the evolution of teeth in the prehistoric giant megalodon shark and its relatives was a byproduct of growth rather than an adaptation to new eating habits.
The famous extinct megalodon was the largest shark ever to inhabit the seas and oceans. The name of the species translates as “big tooth”, which refers to the massive teeth of the shark. They are wide and triangular, not like the curved, blade-like teeth of the Megalodon’s closest relatives.
Traditionally, the differences in tooth shape observed in this group of giant sharks were thought to reflect a change in diet. While the oldest relatives probably used their teeth to pierce small and fast-moving prey, such as fish, the megalodon most likely used them to bite off large chunks of marine mammal meat or dismember prey with powerful head movements.
In a new study published in Scientific Reports, scientists used digital simulations to understand how the megalodon dentition functioned during feeding.
Scientists have come to the conclusion that the teeth of the megalodon have grown to impressive sizes not for better hunting or feeding, but by accident. It is the gigantic body size of ancient sharks that is responsible for the change in the specific teeth of the species, and not an evolutionary necessity.