Does the Megalodon Shark Live in the Mariana Trench?
Is Megalodon in the Mariana Trench?
No. It's a hopeful idea, but modern science tells us that the Megalodon Shark went extinct thousands of years ago. So why do some people think it could still exist in the Mariana Trench and other deep places in the ocean?
This is partly due to some famous novels written on the subject, but the logic here sort of makes sense. Megalodon was a 60-foot shark that hunted near shore and fed on large whales and other marine creatures. Obviously, if such a creature still existed it would be visible and well known. This fact alone is enough for most researchers to conclude that Megalodon is extinct.
So, believers reason, if Megalodon still exists it must have evolved to live somewhere it is rarely seen. The Mariana Trench is about as remote as it gets, and even a massive shark would be very hard to find.
As we will see, there are a few problems with this story.
What Is the Mariana Trench?
The Mariana Trench is a massive canyon in the Earth's crust and the deepest part of the ocean. Located in the Western Pacific, it runs for over 1,500 miles but averages only a bit more than 40 miles across.
The Mariana Trench was created by a geological process called subduction. In this case, the Pacific tectonic plate is moving very slowly to the west, and pressure is pushing it down into the Earth's crust where it meets the Philippine Plate. Far to the east, the new ocean floor is created by volcanic activity.
So, the Pacific Ocean floor is like a big conveyor belt, slowly marching westward over time, where it is recycled into the depths of the Mariana Trench. This makes the ocean floor in the Mariana Trench the oldest in the world, dating back around 180 million years.
At its deepest, at a spot called Challenger Deep, the Marina Trench measures over 35,000 feet. By comparison, that's about 6,000 feet deeper than Mount Everest is tall.
Is it really possible a shark could live at those depths? Does anything live at those depths?
What Lives in the Mariana Trench?
For Megalodon to live in the Marina Trench it would require an abundant food supply.
Humans have only traveled to the bottom of Challenger Deep twice. It is a forbidding landscape, and not very hospitable to a predatory shark. At that depth, the only life is tiny amphipods, which wouldn't even rate as a snack for Megalodon.
Starting at around 13,000 feet we see deep-sea fish begin to emerge, but these too are much too small to sustain a creature as large as Megalodon.
To find anything close to a prey item for a 60-foot Megalodon we need to come up to around 8,000 feet, which is the deepest whales are known to dive. A Sperm Whale would surely make a meal for a Megalodon.
In fact, one of Megalodon's ancient competitors was a massive predatory Sperm Whale with foot-long teeth known as Livyatan Melvillei.
There's a problem with this. If Megalodon still exists and feeds on whales, we'd see evidence on whales that survived attacks, just as we see evidence of great white shark attacks on lucky seals that managed to escape.
How Deep Is the Mariana Trench?
The Search for the Megalodon Shark
So how does a coastal predator go from munching on whales, pinnipeds, and massive turtles near shore to eating deep-diving creatures in the Marina Trench?
One possibility is that a small population of Megalodon Sharks had already evolved to live at those depths before the larger population of Megalodon went extinct. Therefore, when the environmental changes occurred that led to the extinction of the Megalodon Shark, the population that lived at great depths continued to thrive while the sharks who lived in shallower water died off.
We see this possibility at other locations where Megalodon is said to still exist. The Sea of Cortez is a body of water between the Baja Peninsula and Mexico. It is rich in sea life, with several species of large whales in residence. At its deepest, it is estimated at nearly 10,000 feet. Stories of massive sharks have circulated in the region for decades, and some believe the Megalodon Shark still lurks in the depths.
Great white sharks are frequent visitors to the Sea of Cortez as well, and some have been known to dive to surprising depths. Can we make any comparisons between Megalodon and great whites, or any other living sharks?
Megalodon Compared to Other Sharks
The Megamouth Shark is a massive fish reaching 20 feet in length or more. Despite its impressive size, it remained unknown until 1976. One of the reasons is because it is vertically migratory, meaning it only comes anywhere near the surface at night. In the daytime, it dives down to 500 feet or deeper.
If the Megamouth Shark remained hidden for so long simply because it dove to 500 feet for most of the day, what chances do we have of finding a Megalodon that may live at 3,000 feet?
Do any sharks live that deep? While the largest sharks in the world are well-known due to their near-surface behaviors, there are others who are much more reclusive.
The Portuguese Dogfish is a species of Sleeper Shark known to survive at depths of up to 12,000 feet.
The Pacific Sleeper Shark and Greenland Shark are huge animals reaching over 20 feet in length which can live at depths of up to 9,000 feet.
Even the great white shark has been recorded diving to depths of 4,000 feet.
So, there seems to be nothing preventing a Megalodon from living in the dark of the ocean, should it have reason to do so. However, this also tells us that Megalodon doesn't need the depths of the Mariana Trench to stay hidden.
More to the point, since no sharks exist below 12,000 feet, and no large prey items, it seems highly unlikely that Megalodon would have evolved to live at such depth.
While that may be disheartening to Megalodon believers, in a way it's also encouraging. Since the average depth of the ocean is around 14,000 feet, that means the Megalodon Shark, even if it has evolved to live in very deep water, could, in theory, exist in numerous places around the world.
But that brings us back to our original problem: If a 60-foot predatory shark is still out there, and still lives around the world, we should see the evidence.
Is Megalodon in the Mariana Trench?
Is it really possible that small populations of Megalodon Sharks evolved to feed on prey in very deep water, and because of this managed to avoid extinction? Could this remnant population of Megalodon Shark still thrive today, far out of sight of humans?
Probably not. There's no food for it down there, and no other shark species are known to thrive that deep. It is an interesting idea, but unfortunately not one with any scientific merit, as of yet anyway.
This is all food for thought. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide what you think is possible.
Does the Megalodon Shark still live, deep in the Mariana Trench?