Extinct superpredator megalodon was big enough to eat orca, scientists say

Extinct superpredator megalodon was big enough to eat orca, scientists say
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Otodus megalodon, the inspiration behind the 2018 movie “The Meg,” lived more than 23 million years ago. Fossils of the extinct giant are hard to find: While there are plenty of fossilized shark teeth, their bodies are made mostly of cartilage rather than bone and are rarely preserved.

A research team led by Jack Cooper, a Swansea University paleobiologist, began using 3D modeling from a rare and extremely well-preserved megalodon backbone to gain insights into the shark’s movement and behavior. Their research has been published Science Advances Wednesday.

“We speculate that an adult O. megalodon could cruise at absolute speeds faster than any shark species today and completely consume prey the size of modern apex predators,” the researchers wrote.

Much of what we know about megalodons comes from scientific implications: Scientists have estimated that the extinct sharks may have been 65 feet long compared to great white sharks, which are considered “the best ecological analogues available,” since both are at the top. According to the article, it is located in the food chain.

The researchers used a megalodon vertebral column from Belgium, a tooth from the United States, and the chondrocranium, the cartilaginous equivalent of a skull, to create their 3-D skeletons. They then used a whole-body scan of a great white shark to predict how the meat would fit on the megalodon’s skeleton.

With a full 3D render, they made estimates for the shark’s entire body volume and body mass. By comparing the numbers with the sizes of modern sharks, they estimated the shark’s swimming speed, stomach value, caloric needs, and prey encounter rates.

The megalodon they modeled would have been almost 16 meters or 52 feet long. It was around 61,560 kilograms, or 135,717 pounds, according to his estimates.

They estimated that Megalodon could prey on the size of orca whales, which, in just five bites, could measure up to 26 feet long and weigh more than 8,000 pounds.

According to the researchers, prey the size of a modern humpback whale would have been too large for a megalodon to fully eat. Eating large prey may have given megalodon a competitive advantage over other predators. Eating large amounts of food at once would also allow them to travel long distances without ever eating again, just like modern great white sharks.

An adult megalodon would need to eat 98,175 calories per day, 20 times more than an adult great white shark. According to the researchers’ estimates, they could meet their energy needs by eating about 31.9 kilograms of shark muscle.

Megalodon was faster than any shark with a theoretical average cruise speed of about 3.1 mph. This speed would have allowed it to encounter more prey, helping it meet its huge caloric demands.

Overall, the data from the 3D model paints a portrait of an “oceanic super predator,” the researchers say.

Fortunately, today’s orcas don’t have to worry about coming across the gigantic shark. Megalodon went extinct about 3.6 million years ago, According to the UK Museum of Natural History, for reasons that scientists are still trying to understand.

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