Did you catch the first episode of this year’s Shark Week? Called Expedition Unknown Megalodon, the episode examines what may have led to the extinction of the megalodon. Referred to Otodus Megalodon in the show, it’s more commonly used scientific name is Carcharocles Megalodon. The episode points out that they reached lengths of 60 feet, similar to humpback whales and went extinct around 2 million years ago. This time frame put the megalodon’s exit around the same time that a hypothesized nearby supernova created enough radiation to cause a mass ocean dye-off.
Megalodon – new evidence
Current evidence suggest that the megs may have gone extinct closer to 3.5 million years ago. Either way, the dates have them overlapping with the appearance of the Great White Shark, which enters the fossil record 4 million years ago. This new time frame means that they went extinct long before the mass die-off. In fact, that theory itself has been called into question as it may be a simple gap in the fossil record rather than a cataclysmic event. Under the new theory of extinction occurring much earlier, it’s now thought that perhaps the megalodon’s were simply out-competed by the great white shark.
Megalodon Shark Teeth
The show did pay a bit of attention to the megalodon’s shark teeth. They represent the only fossil evidence we have of charcharocles megalodon. The shark’s teeth were absolutely massive and in fact, they find a really awesome specimen on the show with the help of a paleontologist. They mention the commonly held belief that sharks shed huge numbers of teeth throughout the life, reporting that it’s “in the thousands.”
We always love when we’re able to spot a sharks tooth on one of our Tiger Beach day trips. Tiger Beach is the coolest place for us to find teeth, as the tiger shark’s tooth is really unique, large, and an incredible souvenir. So how often do sharks really “shed” their teeth. If a shark lived for 30 years, loosing 1 tooth per day would mean over ten thousand teeth left on the ocean floor over their lifetime. That’s incredible. If a shark lost 1 tooth per week, the number would be much less, at around 1,500. If it’s really “in the thousands”, then sharks must loose teeth at an average of more than one per week. Stay tuned on this one…
The episode does a cheesy comparison of the great white shark tooth with a megalodon tooth. The hypothesis they presented here was that the great white tooth is much sharper than the megalodon’s tooth. This would have given the great white shark a competitive advantage helping them push the megalodon to extinction. I find it hard to believe that a fossilized meg tooth would retain much of it’s sharp edge and serrations, if any at all. In fact, I think that a megalodon’s shark tooth would have been a terrifying enlargement of a modern great white tooth, just as sharp and much more deadly. Nice try on that one.
Overall, the show was not a bad attempt to give some information about the time and circumstances surrounding the extinction of Megalodon. Catch all the episodes for this year’s Discovery Shark Week. You can find the schedule of shows by CLICKING HERE