The megalodon is the largest carnivorous fish ever to have lived on earth. They lived from 26 to 2.5 million years ago. During this time, it was at the top of the oceanic food chain. So far, only the teeth, jaws, and a few vertebrae of this beast have been found as its cartilage skeleton would have decayed. From the fossils found, scientists have estimated that megalodon reached lengths of over 60′ (20 m), and weighing close to 70 tons. This creature was roughly 3 times the size of its smaller cousin, the great white of today.
Like great whites, megalodons were ambush hunters. They hunted fish, seals, turtles, whales, smaller sharks, and any other marine animal that was unlucky enough to cross its path. Megalodon swam far below the surface while hunting. With their darker colored backs, they could camouflage into the murky waters of the deep. This is because of their countershading, when animals are dark on top and light on the bottom. Their prey would also have been illuminated by the light, casting a shadow under them. When this carnivorous fish located its prey, it would rocket to the surface and bite down on its prey. Often, megalodons would target the tail and fins of their prey in order to immobilize it. With a single bite, this shark could deliver a bite so powerful it that it could break bones, shells, and tear large chunks of meat off of its prey. After a fatal chomp to the prey, megalodon would swim off and allow the unlucky victim to bleed out. It could crunch down with over 35,000 lbs (15,875 kg) of force.
Due to a changing climate, megalodon supposedly went extinct around 2.6 million years ago. When the Pleistocene epoch started, the Megalodon had to adapt to a colder environment. During the Pliocene epoch, global temperatures were higher than they were during the following epoch, the Pleistocene. Worldwide, the average temperatures decreased, and the oceans began to cool down. Unlike modern mackerel sharks which can heat up their body nearly 30″f (15″c) above the surrounding water temperature, megalodon could not accomplish this. Many of the whales and other marine mammals that megalodon hunted began to decrease in population, and more advanced predators like killer whales evolved. They competed with megalodon for the already dwindling food supply, and also preyed on younger megalodons. With the changing climate, shrinking supply of prey animals, and more evolved predators, megalodons met their end around this time. The title of largest carnivorous shark was given to the great whites of today, and megalodon became another specie to disappear into extinction. Or so it was believed…
Recently, a megalodon tooth was found that was found out to be 10,000 years old when tested on. This makes some scientists wonder whether megalodon did go extinct 2 million years ago. Also, several sightings of extremely large great whites have been seen the last few decades. With these sightings, several carcasses of whales with their tails bitten off have washed up on shores around the world. Although the bites were in the style of great white sharks, they were much too large for any known shark to create. These sightings and attacks on whales often occur near deep ocean trenches where whales, fish, and other marine animals abound. Scientists have tries to search the oceans for more signs of megalodon, but in total, humans have only explored 5% of the world’s oceans. Who knows, it it possible that a small populations of giant sharks lives somewhere deep in the most inaccessible places on earth.