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Ancient megalodon super-predators could swallow an excellent white shark whole, new model reveals

Ancient megalodon super-predators could swallow a great white shark whole, new model reveals
The reconstructed megadolon was 16 metres long and weighed over 61 tons. Credit: J.J. Giraldo

In a fresh 3D modeling study published this week in Science Advances, we show that the giant extinct shark, Otodus megalodon, was a genuine globetrotting super-predator.

It had been with the capacity of covering vast distances promptly, and may eat the biggest of modern living super-predators, the killer whale, in five gargantuan bites. It might have swallowed an excellent white shark whole.

The biggest shark that ever lived

Megalodon was the biggest shark that ever lived, also it was around for an extended timefrom around 23 million to 2.6 million years back. At once its range was enormous: its fossilized teeth have already been entirely on every continent except Antarctica. These teeth aren’t hard to identify if you run into them, because they can be around 18 centimeters long.

Just why this formidable predator went extinct remains a mystery. It might have been associated with global cooling, or competition from other predators such as for example orcas (killer whales). That is one among many unanswered questions.

A very important factor we know for certain is that the was bigbut precisely how big has remained a spot of contention among scientists, because previous estimates have already been effectively predicated on just fragmentary remains.

And its own size really matters, since it helps us to interpret its biologythe forms of prey an animal can kill and eat, the quantity of food it requires to survive and the speed of which it could travel.

The question of diet is specially important since it determines an animal’s role and effect on its ecosystem. Historically, many thought megalodon took very big prey, including large whales.

Nonetheless it has been recently argued that it could not need been quite the super-predator it turned out cracked around be, concluding that it concentrated on lesser prey such as for example seals, dolphins and small whales between around two and seven meters long. If correct, this might have major implications for the understanding of the way the marine ecosystems of that time period functioned.

Our new model now suggests it did actually prefer to undertake much bigger prey.

Car-crushing bite force

I’ve long had a pastime in megalodon. I published a paper with colleagues back 2007 wherein we built some type of computer simulation to predict its bite force.

Our estimatea car-crushing 18 metric tonswas influenced by the assumed body mass of the pet, therefore i was delighted when colleagues from overseas asked me to greatly help with an try to create a more accurate style of the complete shark. From there, we’re able to more reliably determine its size.

Previous estimates of your body mass and proportions of megalodon have largely just extrapolated on data from single fossilized vertebrae, which leaves lots of room for error. Others were predicated on direct comparison with the living great white shark; however, it’s now pretty clear that both weren’t closely related.

Inside our new study, we based our estimates on 3D modeling of the very most complete specimen known, represented by way of a largely intact vertebral column in a Belgian museum. We quantified its total length, weight, and how big is its gape from the entire digital model.

Lastly, we estimated the megalodon’s cruising speed, the quantity of its stomach, its daily energetic demands and the rate of which it likely encountered prey.

We figured this specific megalodon was around 16 meters long and weighed in at a lot more than 61 metric tons. That is considerably bigger than recent estimates of only 48 metric tons.

A whale for breakfast

Predicated on other isolated fossil vertebrae, it’s likely the biggest megalodon grew to 20 meters long. We further determined that the Belgian specimen’s maximum gape was around 1.8 meters and that its stomach may have held 9.5 cubic meters of food.

This suggests it might have entirely consumed the biggest of living killer whales (around 8 meters) in only five bites.

Hypothetically, it might have eaten another iconic super-predator, the Tyrannosaurus rex, in only three bites. For great white sharks, a megalodon may have swallowed a big one whole.

Our results suggest megalodon may have comfortably cruised at over 5 kilometers each hour. This is considerably faster compared to the largest living fish, the filter-feeding whale shark, as well as the fantastic white shark, which cruises at around 3 kilometers each hour.

This ocean-spanning super-predator could travel vast distances promptly, increasing prey encounter rates and and can quickly proceed to benefit from seasonal changes in abundance.

Results from our analysis of energetics claim that having eaten a large for breakfast, this megalodon may have traveled around 7,000km before having to feed again.

In a nutshell, our results show that megalodon actually was the super-predator it has been cracked around be, and much more.

No creature, regardless of its size, was safe from the jaws of the super shark. Its extinction likely sent tremendous cascading effects through marine environments of that time period.



More info: Jack A. Cooper et al, The extinct shark Otodus megalodon was a transoceanic superpredator: Inferences from 3D modeling, Science Advances (2022). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abm9424

This short article is republished from The Conversation under an innovative Commons license. Browse the initial article.The Conversation

Citation: Ancient megalodon super-predators could swallow an excellent white shark whole, new model reveals (2022, August 21) retrieved 21 August 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-08-ancient-megalodon-super-predators-swallow-great.html

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