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Monday, 5 August 2013

Megalodon Sightings: Is the Megalodon Shark Still Alive?

Megalodon Sightings: Is the Megalodon Shark Still Alive?

What is the Megalodon Shark?

Carcharodon Megalodon went extinct about 1.5 million years ago, but rare sightings of giant sharks have some researchers wondering if this incredible predator might still be around. At maximum lengths of up to 60 feet, Megalodon was the largest shark that ever lived. It dwarfed even the biggest of modern Great Whites Sharks, and was no doubt just as mean. Meg was the apex predator of its day, the most formidable carnivore ever to live on this Earth. With teeth as large as a man’s hand and the most powerful bite force of any animal ever known, Megalodon preyed on whales and other marine mammals.
If you enjoy visiting the beach in the summer you're probably thinking you're glad this monster shark is extinct. But it may not comfort you to know there is a small group of scientists, cryptozoologists and amateur researchers dedicated to the idea that Carcharodon Megalodon may still patrol the world’s oceans, perhaps in very deep waters where large whales dive. This concept has spawned some interesting movies and novels, not to mention caught the attention shark enthusiasts both amateur and professional. Even the Discovery Channel featured a special on the Megalodon for Shark Week 2012, complete with a massive recreation of the monster.
The idea that Megalodon is still alive is pretty wild, and fun to ponder. But is it really possible? When you consider that some researchers claim we know more about the surface of the moon that we do of the deep ocean, perhaps it's not such a strange idea after all. The deep ocean has proven especially difficult to study, and almost anything could lurk in the depths.

Prehistoric Sea Creatures and Living Fossils

We know the giant shark Megalodon only from the fossil record and preserved teeth. Because shark skeletons consist mostly of cartilage, these are the only parts that fossilize. No living or dead specimen has ever been recovered in modern times. So what makes us think it could still be around? More importantly, has anything like this every happened before?
In fact, there is precedence for bizarre marine creatures turning up when the odds are stacked against them. Some of them, like the Megalodon shark, were once thought extinct, or be believed to only be myths.
If a massive creature like the Colossal Squid can remain so elusive, why not Megalodon?
If a massive creature like the Colossal Squid can remain so elusive, why not Megalodon?
The Giant Squid is a huge creature reaching up to 30 feet in length which dwells in the deepest part of the ocean. Sightings by ancient sailors are probably what led to legends of the Kraken sea monster. Though science eventually knew of its existence from bodies washed ashore and scars left on the bodies of whales, no live adult specimen was ever caught on film until 2004. Now we know much more about these creatures, and that there is an even larger monster squid out there.
The Colossal Squid is an enormous real-life sea monster, with the largest specimens weighing over half a ton. Yet even though it was discovered in 1925 we still know little about this beast.
The Megamouth Shark is another large creature that can grow up to 16 feet in length, but it was not discovered until 1976. This beast eluded researchers for so long because it lives in deep water, and comes closer to the surface only at night.
The Coelacanth is an even stranger case. This bizarre fish was thought to have gone extinct 65 million years ago, until they were discovered in 1938, live and well, off the coast of South Africa. The Coelacanth is a prehistoric fish, referred to as the Living Fossil. While not giants like Megalodon, the Megamouth or the Giant Squid, they do reach over six feet in length.
The Coelacanth is the best-known example of something called the Lazarus Taxon. This is when a species appears to have gone extinct, but then is found alive again. Usually, as in the case with the Coelacanth, there is a small remnant population somewhere that had gone unnoticed, at least by modern science. Often, locals know about the animals, but because a biologist hasn't confirmed it the species remains officially extinct. As well see, there are plenty of accounts of Megalodon sightings.
If such an ancient and strange species like the Coelacanth could endure without detection for so long, why not the Megalodon?

How Big Was Megalodon?

Here's Megalodon vs the Whale Shark (blue) and Great White Shark (green).  Even by the conservative estimate (red) Meg was by far the biggest shark that ever lived.       
Here's Megalodon vs the Whale Shark (blue) and Great White Shark (green). Even by the conservative estimate (red) Meg was by far the biggest shark that ever lived.

Historic Megalodon Sightings and Evidence

There are a handful of well-documented pieces of evidence and testimony that suggest Megalodon is still alive.
In 1875 two Megalodon teeth dredged up during a deep-sea expedition by HMS Challenger dated only 10,000 - 15,000 years old. If the methods used were accurate, this would mean Megalodon went extinct much more recently than previously believed, and make it a contemporary of modern humans. Ten thousand years is only a blink of an eye in the world of paleontology. It does not take great imagination to think Megalodon may have survived the past 10,000 years undetected in the depths of the oceans. This also means our ancestors, at least the ones who lived near the ocean, would have been well acquainted with the Megalodon shark.
In 1918, Australian naturalist David Stead recorded events when local fisherman refused to go back out to sea after an unbelievably massive shark had demolished their gear and taken their catch. These were experienced men of the sea, familiar with whales and large sharks, but whatever they had seen had frightened them so much that they refused to work. According to Stead, they described it as between 35 and 90 meters long and pure white in color. These proportions seem unbelievable. Could a shark really grow to that size? Were these men exaggerating? Or, were they just confused? If it wasn't a Megalodon that had frightened them, what else could it have been?
In the 1960’s the captain of a 55-foot fishing ship reported that a white shark at least as long as the boat passed by while they sat at anchor. The crew refused to officially discuss the sighting, but the Captain gave his account. An experienced sailor, the Captain would have been able to recognize a whale if that is what it had been, but he claimed it was indeed a giant shark.

Megalodon: Sharkzilla!

Recent Megalodon Sightings

Unfortunately, when it comes to more recent Megalodon sightings there isn’t a whole lot to hang our hats on. Megalodon has firmly planted itself in the realm of cryptozoology, and few researchers take the creature seriously in the modern day. Occasionally a stray report will wash up of a larger-than-normal shark spotted somewhere, but given that Great Whites can theoretically grow in excess of 20 feet it’s certainly possible that these are misidentified animals. Most marine biologists would be thrilled enough to discover a 20-foot Great White!
But there are at least a few interesting tidbits for consideration. Back in 2009 the History Channel show Monsterquest visited the Sea of Cortez where massive sharks have been reported for years. These beasts are allegedly three times larger than the biggest great white sharks in the area, and know for decimating the local marine mammal populations. The Monsterquest team failed to find Megalodon, but many still believe, if this giant shark is still around, this is a prime location for finding it.
In 2012, on an episode of the show Shark Wranglers called Monster of Bird Island, shark researchers interviewed a group of South African fisherman who claimed there was a huge shark in the area as big as their boat. The boat appeared to be thirty or forty feet long. Was this a Megalodon shark these fisherman had witnessed? Later in the episode one of the researchers told a tale of a 30-foot shark he had seen when he was younger.
Though we think of the Megalodon as a giant Great White Shark, many researchers believe it may not have resembled one at all. Indeed, some say they were not even closely related. Did it act like a Great White? Most researchers say it was probably similar, but of course there is not way to be sure. So when someone spots a giant Great White Shark, what are the odds it could really be a relic Megalodon? Viewed from this perspective, there could be countless undocumented Megalodon encounters throughout history.
So what was Megalodon really like? The dramatization below is probably pretty accurate!

Megalodon Shark Attack

Megalodon Teeth

Like the Great White, Megalodon had serrated teeth. While we think of modern sharks as formidable predators we surely woundn't want to cross, Megalodon would have been in a whole other class of terror. Even after countless centuries, some fossilized Megalodon teeth are still sharp to the touch. We can only imagine what they were capable doing to a large prey item like a whale, let alone a human
The largest Megalodon teeth can be seven inches long, the size of a grown-man's hand. Megalodon was the largest and most highly evolved in a lineage of megatoothed sharks. Though they look larger versions of Great White Shark teeth, paleontologiests point to slight differences in the teeth of Megalodon and its ancestors as proof that Megalodon is not closely related to the Great White. This would put it in the genus Carcharocles rather than the Great White's Carcharodon. This is a matter still up for debate.
Regardless of its heritage, this shark had a set of chompers never seen in the animal kingdom before or since. Researchers have calculated that this massive shark may have had a bite force of 18 tons! A T-Rex had a bite force of only one-third that. The strongest biter in our world today is the saltwater crocodile, and they only come in around 3700 pounds.
It's clear the teeth and jaws of Megalodon were made for destruction. Interestingly, some researchers say it may have bitten off the fins of its prey before finishing it off. That makes the Megalodon tooth arsenal not only powerful, but capable of a certain amount of precision as well.
With jaws like this Megalodon would have made short work of anything in the ocean, including whales and giant sea turtles.
With jaws like this Megalodon would have made short work of anything in the ocean, including whales and giant sea turtles.
Source: Public domain, Wikimedia Commons

Megalodon Facts and Behavior

Much like the modern Great White, Megalodon was probably an ambush predator that took its prey by surprise, either from below or by approaching at great speeds. This would have meant it was a very active shark, not some lumbering giant like the Whale Shark. It was a coastal shark, hunting offshore, again like our modern Great White. It would have been found in just about every ocean of the world, preying on whales, dolphins and other marine mammals, and even giant sea turtles. In short, it would have eaten just about anything it wanted, and if it were really around it would not be hard to spot.
If Megalodon is still alive today it’s easy to see that all of the above can no longer be true. A massive, 60-foot shark hunting whales close to shore would surely be well-known, not to mention widely feared. So if Meg is still around it must have changed its behaviors drastically.
Scientists think Megalodon young lived in shark "nurseries" like Great Whites. These are areas, usually close to shore, where young sharks can grow and feed in relative safety. Megalodon young may have started out eating fish or other small prey items, and then moved on to larger prey as they got bigger.
So where are the baby Megaldon? They may be living at great depths like their parents, or it could be possible that they they are so rare and so similar to the Great White that when they are spotted they are simply assumed to be adult Great White Sharks.

Was Megalodon an ambush predator like the modern Great White?
Was Megalodon an ambush predator like the modern Great White?

What Happened to Megalodon?

If this shark was such a formidable predator, why did it die out? Unfortunately, even the strongest creatures are no match for Mother Nature. While Meg inhabited every ocean of the world, the planet was a much warmer place back then. As the environment entered a cooling period, sea levels began to fall and currents shifted, causing not only a cooling of the ocean itself but also a shift in the food supply. Theoretically, Megalodon either couldn’t adapt to the colder climate, the food issues, or both. There is also evidence that the situation may have been complicated by the evolution of other large, predatory marine creatures which may have infringed on Megalodon’s niche.
For Meg to still be around it would have had to adapt to colder temperatures, a different breeding pattern, and greatly different food sources. Some speculate the deepest parts of the ocean, such as the Mariana Trench, may be a place where Meg has survived.
Certainly we know whales and giant squid venture very deep, so it is conceivable that Megalodon would have the food it requires. In fact, recent research on Great White Sharks shows they may dive fairly deep in search of food. If Meg followed similar habits, perhaps it could have made the adaptations to deep-ocean life much easier than some experts suggest.
Unfortunately, the larger an animal is, and the more specific it's niche in the environment, the hard time it has adapting to environmental changes. It's unlikely that the vast majority of these sharks would have been able to adapt to a major shortage in their food supply. An animal that evolved to feed on large marine mammals will have a tough time switching to oceanic fish, for example.
However, what is conceivable is that a small population which had already made some adaptations to a different food sources and lifestyle (such as diving to great depths and feeding on squid) could have survived the die off and maintained a small, remnant population of Megalodon over the centuries.

Is Megalodon Still Alive?

Is Megalodon still out there somewhere, stalking the oceans of the world? Is there any reason to worry about going in the water at the beach?
Even if Megalodon still exists you probably have nothing to worry about. Great Whites attack humans mostly because they mistake us for something else, such as a seal or other marine creature that makes up of the bulk of its diet. If Megalodon has evolved to feed on squid or some other deep-dwelling sea creature they will not making the same error.
Then again, if even one of these giant sharks were to rise from the depths and discover that our beaches and small boats might make good food sources, there is probably little we can do to stop it. It would be the greatest biological discovery of our lifetimes, but that probably wouldn't mean much if you're one of the people on the beaches or small boats.
If it makes you feel any better, mainstream science is unmoved by the evidence supporting the possibility of Megalodon’s existence today. Still, the idea of this monster shark out there patrolling the ocean deep is fascinating to imagine. There is still so much of the ocean left unexplored, the possibilities are almost endless.

Still have some questions on Megalodon? Check this out:
  • Megalodon Facts and FAQ


  1. This animal has always fascinated me.

    Could there still be some descendant of these sharks in the oceans today?

    I think it's worth exploring.

    I'm leaning toward the species not being in the same genus as the great white.

    We just don't know enough.

    One thing that makes this all more confusing is that basking shark is a generic term that applied to both the plankton eating species that we now know by that name. In The White Seal, Kotick survives attacks from a basking shark, which has to mean great white.

  2. There have been new discoveries of sea creatures that were suppose to be extinct but in fact are not and one was a shark that was suppose to have been extinct millions of years ago but was found in very deep waters in I believe was in the ocean in Japan.

    So who knows! If those survived maybe the Megalodon has as well but in much smaller numbers from what it was during prehistoric times.

    And for Scientists to discount their existence just because they have not seen one is arrogance on their part.

  3. I think some undescribed species of giant shark still lurk in our oceans, here is a story which occured in Bay of Fundy,which is known to be a nursery for whales:
    Another case was that Mongitore monstrous fish oxypterus mongitori found in Sicily, a hotspot for sea monsters apparently. I believe those giant sharks looks similar to GWS but whith proportionally longer pectoral fins and smaller dorsal ones set rearward on their body.

  4. Hi,

    I have saved this article so I could come back in the future and go through it once more. It is very intriguing, well-researched and also composed. I almost never observe marvelous content these days

    Have a nice day...!!

    Megalodon Tooth for Sale


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