Scientists say the extinct superpredator megalodon was big enough to eat orcas

Otodus megalodon, the inspiration behind the 2018 movie “The Meg,” lived 23 million years ago. Fossils of the extinct giant are hard to come by: although there are plenty of fossilized shark teeth, their bodies consist mainly of cartilage rather than bone, and they are rarely preserved.

A research team led by Swansea University paleontologist Jack Cooper has begun using 3D modeling from a rare and exceptionally well-preserved Megalodon vertebral column to expand information about the shark’s movement and behavior. Their study was published Scientific advances Wednesday.

“We estimate that an adult O. megalodon could travel at a faster absolute speed than any shark species today, and could consume prey to the extent of a modern apex predator,” the researchers wrote.

Most of what we know about megalodons comes from scientific assumptions: Scientists have estimated that the extinct sharks were up to 65 feet long by comparing them to great white sharks, which are considered the “best available ecological analog” because they are both top-of-the-line. Run up the food chain according to the article.

The researchers built their 3D skeleton from a megalodon vertebral column from Belgium, a tooth from the United States and chondrocranium — the cartilage equivalent of the skull — from a great white shark. They scanned the entire body of a great white shark to assess how the flesh would sit on the megalodon’s skeleton.

Through a complete 3D rendering, they came up with estimates of the shark’s entire body size and body mass. By comparing the data to the size of modern sharks, they estimated the shark’s swimming speed, stomach size, caloric requirements and prey encounter rate.

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The megalodon they designed would have been nearly 16 meters or 52 feet long. According to their estimate, it weighs 61,560 kilograms or 135,717 pounds.

They estimated that megalodon could swallow orca whales the size of 26 feet long and weigh more than 8,000 pounds in five bites.

According to the researchers, the size of a modern humpback whale would have been too large for a megaloton to eat completely. Eating large prey may have given Megalodon a competitive advantage over other predators. Eating large amounts at once would have allowed them to travel great distances without eating again, as in modern great white sharks.

An adult megalodon needs to eat 98,175 calories per day, which is 20 times more than an adult great white shark. The researchers estimate that they could have met their energy needs by eating about 31.9 kilograms of shark muscle.

Megalodon is the fastest of any living shark, with a theoretical average cruising speed of 3.1 mph. This speed allows it to encounter more prey and helps meet its massive caloric needs.

Collectively, the data extracted from the 3D model paints a portrait of a “transoceanic superpredator,” the researchers say.

Fortunately, today’s orcas don’t have to worry about running into massive sharks. Megalodon went extinct about 3.6 million years ago. According to the Natural History Museum of the United Kingdom, Scientists are still trying to understand the reasons.

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