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Megalodon Sightings: Is the Megalodon Shark Still Alive Today?

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With interests in science and nature, the author explores topics from a unique and sometimes controversial perspective.

These jaws made the megalodon shark the most powerful predator in the ancient oceans. Do alleged sightings prove the prehistoric shark is still alive today?

These jaws made the megalodon shark the most powerful predator in the ancient oceans. Do alleged sightings prove the prehistoric shark is still alive today?

Could Megalodon Still Live?

According to modern science, the megalodon shark went extinct millions of years ago. At a maximum length of up to 60 feet, it was the largest shark that ever lived, a wrecking machine of teeth and muscle that preyed on adult whales. If such a creature still existed, it seems reasonable that we would know about it.

Some say maybe not. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the megalodon shark in recent years. This has, in turn, led to a great deal of confusion about megalodon encounters in modern times, as well as the real creature that swam in our oceans for millions of years.

Unfortunately, some people have interpreted this misinformation to mean megalodon is entirely made up. That is far from the case.

Megalodon really did swim in the ancient oceans of the world. The question is, what are the chances it could still be out there today?

Was Megalodon a Real Shark?

Yes! Megalodon really did exist. One reason we know this is because of fossil teeth and vertebrae left behind. Because shark skeletons consist mostly of cartilage rather than bone, these are the only parts that fossilize.

No living or dead specimen has ever been recovered. There are no "official" sightings on record.

Megladon teeth are much larger than those of any living shark, including the great white, and from them, researchers have been able to determine the size, weight, and even some of the habits of the real megalodon shark.

So, when we talk about megalodon we are looking at it from two different points of view: Paleontology and Cryptozoology. I think it is important to distinguish the difference.

  • The shark of paleontology can be studied by looking at the fossil record and living sharks in order to puzzle out what the real megalodon may have been like. From a paleontology perspective, this shark is officially extinct, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting.
  • The possibility of a living megalodon is a stance taken by cryptozoologists, and it is not supported by mainstream science. There is no official evidence that megalodon still exists today, but there are plenty of anecdotal reports.

In this article, we'll examine the possibility that the megalodon could still be out there.

How Did Megalodon Go Extinct?

There are a few theories. One says that, as the environment entered a cooling period, sea levels began to fall and currents shifted, causing not only a cooling of the ocean itself but also a shift in the food supply. Theoretically, the megalodon shark either couldn’t adapt to the colder climate, the food issues, or both.

There is also evidence that the situation may have been complicated by the evolution of other large, predatory marine creatures that may have infringed on megalodon’s niche. The rise of species such as orca (the killer whale) may have speeded meg's extinction.

Unfortunately, even the strongest creatures are no match for Mother Nature. While Meg inhabited every ocean of the world, the planet was a much warmer place back then.

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How Big Was the Megalodon Shark? Here's Megalodon vs the Great White Shark.

The Lazarus Taxon and the Megalodon Shark

So what makes some people think they megalodon shark could still be around? More importantly, has anything like this ever happened before?

In fact, there is precedence for marine creatures turning up when the odds are stacked against them. Some of them, like the megalodon shark, were once thought extinct or believed to only be myths.

  • Megamouth Shark: The incredible megamouth shark is another sea creature that can grow to enormous size, but it was not discovered until 1976. This beast eluded researchers for so long because it lives in deep water, and comes closer to the surface only at night.
  • Giant Squid: The giant squid is a huge creature, reaching up to 30 feet in length, dwelling in the deepest parts of the ocean. Though science eventually knew of its existence from bodies washed ashore and scars left on the bodies of whales, no live adult specimen was ever caught on film until 2004. Now we know much more about these creatures, and that there is an even larger monster squid out there.
  • Colossal Squid: The Colossal Squid is an enormous real-life sea monster, with the largest specimens weighing over half a ton. Even though it was discovered in 1925, we still know very little about this beast. Colossal and giant squid sightings by ancient sailors are probably what led to legends of the Kraken sea monster
  • Coelacanth: The coelacanth is an even stranger case. This bizarre fish was thought to have gone extinct 65 million years ago, until they were discovered in 1938, live and well, off the coast of South Africa. The coelacanth is a prehistoric fish, referred to as the Living Fossil. While they're not giants like megalodon, the megamouth, or the Giant Squid, they do reach over six feet in length.

A Lazarus Taxon is a species that appears to have gone extinct, but then is found alive again.

Usually, as is the case with the Coelacanth, there is a small remnant population somewhere that had gone unnoticed, at least by modern science. Often, locals know about the animals, but because a biologist hasn't confirmed it the species remains officially extinct.

Does Megalodon Live in the Mariana Trench?

For meg to still be still alive, it would have had to adapt to colder temperatures, a different breeding pattern, and greatly different food sources. It is obviously not hunting offshore near areas populated by humans. So where did it go?

Some speculate that megalodon populations may have survived in the Mariana Trench and other deep parts of the ocean.

Certainly, we know that whales and giant squids venture very deep, so it is conceivable that megalodon would have the food it requires. In fact, recent research on great white sharks shows they may dive fairly deep in search of food.

If meg followed similar habits, perhaps it could have made the adaptations to deep-ocean life much easier than some experts suggest.

Unfortunately, the larger an animal is, and the more specific its niche, the harder a time it has in adapting to environmental changes. It's unlikely that the vast majority of these sharks would have been able to adapt to a major shortage in their food supply. An animal that evolved to feed on large marine mammals would have a tough time switching to oceanic fish, for example.

Historic Megalodon Sightings and Evidence

Just for fun, here are a handful of stories that suggest megalodon is still alive:

  • Huge Teeth Found by HMS Challenger: In 1875, two megalodon teeth were dredged up during a deep-sea expedition by the HMS Challenger, dated only 10,000 - 15,000 years old. If the methods used were accurate, this would mean it went extinct much more recently than previously believed, and make it a contemporary of modern humans. Ten thousand years is only a blink of an eye in the world of paleontology. It does not take a great imagination to think the megalodon shark may have survived the past 10,000 years undetected in the depths of the oceans.
  • Fishermen Terrified by Giant Shark: In 1918 an Australian naturalist named David Stead recorded events when local fishermen refused to go back out to sea after an unbelievably massive shark had demolished their gear and taken their catch. These were experienced men of the sea, familiar with whales and large sharks, but whatever they had seen had frightened them so much that they refused to work. According to Stead, they described it as between 35 and 90 meters long and pure white in color. These proportions seem unbelievable. Could a shark really grow to that size? Were these men exaggerating? Or, were they just confused?
  • Massive Shark Threatens 55-Foot Fishing Boat: In the 1960s, the captain of a 55-foot fishing ship reported that a white shark at least as long as the boat passed by while they sat at anchor. The crew refused to officially discuss the sighting, but the Captain gave his account. An experienced sailor, the Captain would have been able to recognize a whale if that is what it had been, but he claimed it was indeed a giant shark. Are stories such as this one based on real encounters, or are they just products of the imaginations of sailors who have been at sea too long?

Giant Teeth and Massive Jaws

We like to think of the megalodon as like a giant great white shark. Though they may have looked similar, paleontologists point to slight differences in the megalodon teeth as proof that the megalodon shark is not closely related

The largest megalodon teeth can measure seven inches long — the size of a grown man's hand. Even after countless centuries, some fossilized megalodon teeth are still sharp to the touch.

If meg were still alive today, we might expect to see wounds made by these tremendous teeth the bodies of whales that escaped megalodon encounters with lives, just as we see scars made by great whites on the bodies of living seals.

Megalodon was three times the size of the largest Great White Sharks!

Megalodon was three times the size of the largest Great White Sharks!

Megalodon Bite Force

Regardless of its heritage, this shark had a set of chompers never seen in the animal kingdom before or since. Researchers have calculated that this massive shark may have had a bite force of 18 tons!

A Tyrannosaurus Rex had a bite force of only one-third that. The strongest biter in our world today is the saltwater crocodile, and they only come in around 3,700 pounds.

It's clear that the teeth and jaws were made for destruction. Interestingly, some researchers say it may have bitten off the fins of its prey before finishing it off. That makes the megalodon not only powerful but capable of a certain amount of precision as well.

Again, we should see evidence of these powerful jaws in nature today. The megalodon shark would be the absolute apex predator of the modern ocean if it still existed.

Megalodon Behavior

What was the megalodon shark really like? We can't know for sure, but science can make a few guesses

Hunting Behaviors

Much like the modern great white, megalodon was probably an ambush predator that took its prey by surprise, either from below or by approaching at great speeds. This would have meant it was a very active shark, not some lumbering giant like the whale shark. It was a coastal shark, hunting offshore. Again, like our modern great white.

Megalodon Diet

Megalodon would have been found in just about every ocean of the world, preying on whales, dolphins and other marine mammals, and even giant sea turtles. In short, it would have eaten just about anything it wanted. If it were really around, it would not be hard to spot. A massive, 60-foot predator hunting whales close to shore would surely be well-known, not to mention widely feared.

Megalodon Young

Scientists think that the megalodon young lived in shark nurseries like great whites do. These are areas, usually close to shore, where young sharks can grow and feed in relative safety.

Megalodon young may have started out eating fish or other small prey items, and then moved on to larger prey as they got bigger.

So where are the baby sharks?

The Biggest Shark that Ever Lived

All of these sightings and stories are interesting, but are they really enough to suggest that this massive shark is still alive? Is it still out there somewhere, stalking the oceans of the world? Is there any reason to worry about going into the water at the beach?

If it makes you feel any better, it is pretty unlikely. Mainstream science is unmoved by the evidence supporting the possibility of megalodon’s existence today. Still, the idea of this monster shark out there patrolling the ocean deep is fascinating to imagine. There is still so much of the ocean left unexplored, the possibilities are almost endless.

The Megalodon Poll

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Did the megalodon shark have any predators or enemies?

Answer: The megalodon shark was an apex predator, meaning it was at the top of the food chain. Apex predators have no natural predators of their own, so a fully grown megalodon had little to fear in the prehistoric oceans. It was the big boss of the ancient seas, and it hunted a wide array of prey items.

However, even apex predators end up on the wrong end of the lunch menu now and then. Modern great white sharks are apex predators, but they are sometimes hunted and killed by orcas, another apex predator. So, it isn’t unreasonable to think this could have happened to megalodon.

But orcas are larger than great white sharks, and they hunt in packs. What kind of animal could have taken on the massive, 60-foot megalodon shark?

<i>Livyatan melvillei</i> was one contender. It was a whale as big as an adult megalodon shark, with foot-long teeth. It, too, was an apex predator, but would it have taken on meg in the right situation?

It’s impossible to know for sure, and because shark skeletons are made of cartilage, not bone, we have no megalodon bones to reference for bite marks. Nevertheless, it is intriguing to imagine these two prehistoric hunters squaring off in the ancient ocean.

Question: How big is a megalodon shark?

Answer: The megalodon shark could reach a length of up to 60 feet, according to current estimates. This is much shorter that earlier estimates, where some researchers speculated megalodon might have been 100 feet long. That’s as long as a blue whale!

Still, a sixty-foot shark is a really big fish. To put this in perspective, a very large great white shark may reach an adult length of 20 feet. Megalodon was three times as big!

Megalodon may have weighed 50 tons, with some estimates putting them even heavier. Again for perspective, realize that the largest great whites are around 5,000 pounds, or about 2.5 tons. Any way you look at it, Megalodon was a really huge shark.

It’s important to realize that researchers can only estimate these numbers, as no living megalodon or carcass has ever been found. Sharks skeletons consist mostly of cartilage, so megalodon doesn’t leave much behind.

However, there is an abundance of fossilized teeth, and a few fossilized vertebrae. The largest megalodon teeth are over seven inches long, where a great white tooth is between two and three inches long.

Comparisons with the great white give researchers a rough estimate of the size of the megalodon shark. If more information becomes available, those estimates may change.

Question: Was megalodon a dinosaur?

Answer: No, the megalodon shark was not a dinosaur. While there is some debate, megalodon is classified either within the genus Carcharodon or Carcharocles. Under Carcharodon is would be considered a relative of the modern great white shark. Under Carcharocles it would have been the last remaining species of big-toothed sharks.

Either way, the megalodon was a shark, not a dinosaur.

In fact, megalodon didn’t even live at the time of the dinosaurs. While there were prehistoric sharks back then, megalodon did not evolve until around 23 million years ago. The extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs occurred 65 million years ago, putting a 40-million-year gap between megalodon and the last known dinosaurs.