Does the Megalodon Shark Live in the Mariana Trench?
Possible Megalodon in the Mariana Trench
Modern science tells us the Megalodon Shark is extinct, but could it still live in the Mariana Trench and other deep places in the ocean? Some people think so, and whenever the subject of a living Megalodon comes up the Mariana Trench is pointed out as a likely hiding spot.
This is partly due to some fairly famous novels written on the subject, but the logic here 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.
However, alleged Megalodon sightings through the years would suggest otherwise. Anecdotal evidence, mainly stories from fishermen who witness massive sharks, would indicate there is still a very large predatory shark out there somewhere.
But 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.
Is it possible the Megalodon shark lives in the Mariana Trench? You decide.
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, 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.
Why does this matter? Because we know the Megalodon shark went extinct only about 1.5 million years ago, putting it well within the geological timeframe to take up residence in the Mariana Trench.
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 not only need to be able to survive at such depths, but also have the necessary food supply.
Humans have only traveled to the bottom of the 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. Do ancient battles still rage between modern whales and this massive shark?
There's a problem with this theory. If Megalodon still exists, and feeds on modern whales, we'd see evidence on whales that survived attacks. So, there must be another food source, one that never comes to the surface.
Giant Squid are believed to dive deep, and are prey for Sperm Whales. Might they be prey for Megalodon as well?
How Deep is the Mariana Trench?
The Search for the Megalodon Shark
So, it's clear Megalodon is probably not diving to the depths of the Mariana Trench. But it does seem reasonable that it could feed on Giant Squid, and perhaps the occasional Sperm Whale, at depths of 3-8,000 feet. That's still pretty deep.
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 perceived 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 another locations where Megalodon is said to still exist. The coast of South Africa is one place where fishermen have allegedly witnessed massive sharks over 30 feet long.
The Sea of Cortez is another. 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 needs 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 exist in numerous places around the world.
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?
Maybe. But, while it may be true that Megalodon lives in the upper part of the water column over the Mariana Trench, it probably has no reason to hide in its depths. There's no food for it down there, and no other shark species are known to thrive that deep.
Of course it's also possible there is another piece of the puzzle not yet considered. If Megalodon has managed to remain hidden from modern science, isn't it also possible that another large unknown animal lives in the ocean depths as well?
If a large, unknown prey item lives in the Mariana Trench, is it possible Megalodon followed it down, and now lives deeper than any shark species every recorded?
Now that's an interesting idea, but unfortunately not one with any scientific merit, as of yet anyway. This is all theory, and 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?