Megalodon vs Great White Shark: Australia's Super Predator Found?
Megalodon Attack on Great White
Would a Megalodon shark attack and kill a great white shark? If Megalodon were around today, there is no doubt even a predator like the great white would be in danger. The biggest white shark ever documented was just a bit over 21-feet, though they are speculated to get larger. But Megalodon reached 60 feet or bigger, dwarfing the great white and any other predatory shark in the world today.
But Megalodon went extinct long ago, so when a story began to circulate about a nine-foot white shark that was apparently attacked and eaten by a larger predator it raised a lot of questions. What kind of beast would, or could, do such a thing? The clip is attached to a documentary called Hunt for the Super Predator that aired on the Smithsonian Channel.
I've gotten a lot of questions in the comments section of my Megalodon shark article regarding my opinion on this unprecedented predatory attack. Unfortunately I don't get to see the Smithsonian Channel, but I have seen the video clips and read a synopsis of this program. I find it intriguing and since people have asked I'll offer a few thoughts.
Be aware that this post only represents my theories and opinions, and none of my conclusions are necessarily supported by anyone involved with the actual research into this event.
Let's get to the bottom of it. What would prey upon a 9-foot great white shark?
Proof of a Super Predator
The great white at the center of this story was tagged in 2003 by researcher David Riggs. When the tag eventually washed up on shore it told a bizarre tale of the shark's final minutes. The bottom line: Something is out there capable of preying upon large sharks.
The information collected by the tag revealed three interesting pieces of evidence.
- The shark abruptly dove, or was dragged, down the wall of the Continental Shelf to a depth of about 580 meters, or 1,900 feet.
- The temperate rose 32 degrees, indicating it (at least the tag if not the whole shark) was devoured by some other creature.
- For 8 days whatever ate the shark roamed between the surface and 330 feet before the tag left the body.
Before we dig into the world of cryptozoology let's consider some known creatures that are possible suspects in this case.
The information above tells us whatever did this is capable of diving fairly deep, and big enough to take on a great white. It also tells us the beast does not spend all of its time at tremendous depths, since following the attack the creature came back closer to the surface, and at least for the next 8 days did not dive deeper than 330 feet.
So how do the possible suspects stack up against this information? Let's take a look at them one by one.
Orca (Killer Whale)
Killer whales have been known to attack great whites. They are highly intelligent and fierce animals, and a pod of killer whales is a formidable adversary even a large great white would likely avoid.
It's possible killer whales may pursue a great white as a food item, but also possible they may have sought to exterminate it if they felt it was threatening the pod or the young.
This would seem to lend some credence to a chase down the wall of the Continental Shelf. Is it theoretically possible that white sharks dive deep in response to threats from whales and this explains the chase? Great whites have been documented diving up to 4,000 feet.
Whatever happened, the attacker didn't give up and eventually devoured the shark at the bottom of its dive. But one question remains on the Orca hypothesis: Can they really dive that deep? Killer whales are surface hunters and rarely dive deeper than a few hundred feet to forage. Does the recorded depth of 1,900 feet rule out the killer whale?
Sperm whales are huge predators and can dive down to around 8,000 feet. Such a whale would also return to the surface after the fight. But do sperm whales eat sharks?
White sharks are not a normal part of their diet, but at a length of up to 60 feet a full-gown whale might take the opportunity if the shark made itself available. Or, like the Orca scenario above, perhaps it chased the shark down the slope because it saw the shark as a threat.
One thing that works against the sperm whale hypothesis is that we'd expect to see a whale sound again over an 8-day period, which it did not. However, if it were a pod protecting young, they would have good reason to stay closer to the surface.
Another chilling thought: There once lived a Sperm-whale relative called Livyatan Melvillei that certainly could have taken down a full-grown Great White. It possessed 12-inch teeth and would have given even the mighty Megalodon a run for its money. Is there a whale like this still out there somewhere?
We don't know how big colossal squid can get, but they do lurk in the oceans south of Australia. The largest known specimen measured over 30 feet long and weighed over a thousand pounds. They are believed to get even bigger.
Despite their size, colossal and giant Squid are generally prey items of sperm whales and even great white sharks. They eat fish, primarily. Then again, a shark is a fish.
This presents a couple of scenarios. In the first, the shark preys upon the squid, pursues it to a great depth, then loses the ensuing battle and gets eaten.
In the second scenario the squid comes to the surface and attacks the shark, then drags it into the depths to consume it. We have to think this would be one tremendous squid to overpower a 9-foot great white.
The one thing that counters the colossal squid hypothesis is how the creature came back to the surface following the attack. Some squid exhibit diurnal vertical migration, meaning they stay in the depths during daylight and rise to the surface at night. Even if the colossal squid exhibited this, it should have returned to the deep at some point during the 8 days after the attack.
Monster Great White Shark
Is it possible another even bigger great white may have eaten the 9-foot shark? I believe this is the conclusion eventually reached in the documentary. As I stated at the outset, the largest great white on record measures over 21 feet, but there is anecdotal evidence that they can reach 30 feet or more.
Such a shark would certainly match all of the criteria outlined by the tag data. And there is some evidence that great whites may attack and kill, if not consume, each other.
While this may seem like the most likely, and most boring, conclusion, it does raise other chilling questions. How big was this shark, and how big do great whites get?
Megalodon Killed the Great White Shark
Okay, this is why you're here, isn't it? There are a lot of people suggesting that this attack on a white shark is proof that Megalodon is still out there. I suspect people who are asking me about this are hoping I have come to the same conclusion.
Megalodon was certainly big enough to do the job. Many speculate if the shark somehow managed to survive extinction Megalodon now lives in very deep water. The deep descent off the Continental Shelf sounds about like something Megalodon would do.
Could this have been a Megalodon attack on a great white shark? Does this kind of thing happen more often that we think, and this is the first time it's been documented?
Of course anyone who has ever read any of my posts here knows I'm going to say it's possible. Whatever did this was huge, fast, powerful and not afraid of a 9-foot shark. The thing that did this was a super predator, and Megalodon certainly fits any definition of super predator. Evidence supports at least the distant idea that Megalodon or some other huge, unknown predator committed this attack.
However, I don't feel nearly confident enough to suggest whatever did this was a Megalodon Shark. There are simply too many other logical possibilities.
What Eats Great White Sharks?
I wrote this post in response to some questions I had been getting regarding my opinion on all of this, particularly as it relates to the possible involvement of the Megalodon Shark. I have to again state that none of my thoughts or theories are necessarily supported by the researchers involved in the making of Hunt for the Super Predator or the Smithsonian Channel. In fact, you may want to check out the Smithsonian Channel page about this show and see what conclusions you come up with for yourself
Our list of suspects above consists of some terrifying beasts, including a few that may or may not even exist. Whatever did this had to be huge, powerful and able to dive to some impressive depths.
Is it possible there is some monster out there that would see a 9-foot great white shark as prey? Perhaps a remnant population of the Megalodon Shark or Livyatan Whale still lurks in the Southern Ocean, just out of out sight.
Or maybe this is the first evidence of some massive, undiscovered creature we can barely imagine.