To date, only the length of the legendary megalodon giant shark has been estimated. Now, a new study from the University of Bristol and Swansea University published in Scientific Reports has shown the size of the rest of his body, including the fins, that match the height of an adult.
Sizing the largest sharks can be difficult for fossil forms, which often only have teeth. Today, the most formidable living shark is the great white shark over six meters long, which bites with a force of two tons.
Its fossil cousin, the great tooth shark Megalodon, the star of Hollywood movies, lived from 23 to about three million years ago, was twice the length of a great white shark, and had a bite force of over ten tons.
Megalodon fossils are mostly huge triangular teeth larger than a human hand.
Jack Cooper, who had just completed his master’s degree in paleobiology from the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, and colleagues from Bristol and Swansea used a number of mathematical methods to determine the size and proportions of this animal, comparing its living relatives to the ecological and physiological similarities of the megalodon …
The project was led by shark expert Dr. Catalina Pimiento of Swansea University and Professor Mike Benton, a paleontologist from Bristol, with the collaboration of Dr. Umberto Ferron from Bristol.
I’ve always been crazy about sharks. As a student, I worked and dived with great whites in South Africa – under the protection of a steel cage, of course. It’s a sense of danger, but also that sharks are such beautiful and well-adapted animals, which makes them so attractive to explore. The Megalodon was actually the very animal that inspired me to pursue paleontology in the first place at just six years old. So I was in seventh heaven when I got the chance to study it. This was my dream project. But studying an entire animal is tricky, given that all we really have is a multitude of isolated teeth.
Jack Cooper, MSc in Paleobiology at the University of Bristol School of Earth Sciences
Previously, the fossil shark, officially known as Otodus megalodon, was only compared to the great white shark. Jack and his colleagues extended this analysis for the first time to include five modern sharks.
Dr. Pimiento explains: “Megalodon is not a direct ancestor of the great white shark, but is equally related to other large predatory sharks such as the mako, salmon and porbigl shark, and the great white shark. We have combined the detailed measurements of all five sharks to make predictions about the megalodon. ”
The results show that the 16-meter long Otodus megalodon likely had a head about 4.65 meters long, a dorsal fin approximately 1.62 meters high, and a tail approximately 3.85 meters.
This means that an adult can stand on this shark’s back and will be about the same height as the dorsal fin.
The reconstruction of the size of the body parts of the megalodon represents a fundamental step towards a better understanding of the physiology of this giant and the internal factors that may have made it prone to extinction.