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Megalodon Great White.jpg

Megalodon was a species of giant shark that lived around the world from the late Oligocene to the early Pleistocene periods. The exact classification of Megalodon has been disputed for decades, mostly concerning whether it should be placed in the species Carcharodon megalodon (thus classifying it as a relative of the great white shark) or the species Carcharocles megalodon. As this debate is still unresolved, the creature's full name is usually referred to as C. megalodon. Whatever its classification, it was one of the largest and most powerful predators ever to live.

Megalodon lived all around the world from the Late Oligocene to the Early Pleistocene periods.


Reconstructed jaws of Megalodon in the American Museum of Natural History

For the most part, only teeth and vertebrae of Megalodon have been discovered, making reconstructing this animal challenging.[1] The modern great white shark is often used as an analogue.[2] The exact size of Megalodon is still unknown, but estimates have been made at 15 meters in length[3] and approximately 50 metric tons in weight.

Based on calculations gathered from great white sharks and then scaling the results up, it has been determined that Megalodon may have had a bite force of almost 41,000 lbf in a posterior bite.[4]


The taxonomy of Megalodon is a subject fiercely debated. Traditionally, C. megalodon has been placed within the genus Carcharodon, along with the great white shark. However, it has also been argued that Megalodon should be placed within the genus Carcharocles, and that the similarity to the great white shark is an example of convergent evolution.[5] The issue has still not been resolved.


Teeth of this animal have been found for hundreds of years, but it was not until 1667 when the Danish naturalist Nicolaus Steno correctly identified them as having come from a shark.[6] The Swiss scientist Louis Aggasiz fully described the animal as Carcharodon megalodon in 1843, due to its apparent resemblance to the great white shark, which is placed in the same genus.[7]

Hundreds of fossils of the Megalodon, usually consisting of teeth, are found every year by both professional paleontologists and private collectors.



Fossils of Megalodon have been found all around the planet, suggesting that the species was distributed worldwide. This is possibly because seas were similar all around the world at the time Megalodon lived.[8] They also inhabited a wide range of aquatic biomes, such as deep ocean and coastal lagoons.[9]


Modern sharks are carnivorous, and Megalodon was no different. Fossil evidence has revealed bite marks on whale and other cetacean bones that are attributable to Megalodon.[10]

In popular culture[]

Because of its identity as a shark and its gigantic size, Megalodon has gained a distinct place in popular culture and fiction. It has been most famously portrayed in the book series Meg by Steve Alten, although it was erroneously depicted as having survived seventy million years to the present day.


  1. Klimley, Peter; Ainley, David (1996). Great White Sharks: The Biology of Carcharodon carcharias. Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-415031-4.
  2. Pimiento, Catalina; Dana J. Ehret, Bruce J. MacFadden, and Gordon Hubbell (May 10, 2010). Stepanova, Anna. ed. "Ancient Nursery Area for the Extinct Giant Shark Megalodon from the Miocene of Panama". PLoS ONE (Panama: 5 (5): e10552. Bibcode 2010PLoSO...510552P. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010552. PMC 2866656. PMID 20479893. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
  3. Shimada, Kenshu (5 Nov 2002). "The relationship between the tooth size and total body length in the white shark, Carcharodon carcharias (Lamniformes: Lamnidae)". Journal of Fossil Research (Japan) 35 (2): 28–33. ISSN 0387-1924. Retrieved April 29, 2011.
  4. Wroe, S.; Huber, D. R. ; Lowry, M. ; McHenry, C. ; Moreno, K. ; Clausen, P. ; Ferrara, T. L. ; Cunningham, E. ; Dean, M. N. ; Summers, A. P. (2008). "Three-dimensional computer analysis of white shark jaw mechanics: how hard can a great white bite?". Journal of Zoology 276 (4): 336–342. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.2008.00494.x.
  5. Nyberg K.G, Ciampaglio C.N, Wray G.A (2006). "Tracing the ancestry of the GREAT WHITE SHARK". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 26 (4): 806–814. doi:10.1671/0272-4634(2006)26[806:TTAOTG]2.0.CO;2. ISSN 0272-4634. Retrieved 2007-12-25.
  6. Haven, Kendall (1997). 100 Greatest Science Discoveries of All Time. Libraries Unlimited. pp. 25–26. ISBN 1-59158-265-2.
  7. Nyberg K.G, Ciampaglio C.N, Wray G.A (2006). "Tracing the ancestry of the GREAT WHITE SHARK". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 26 (4): 806–814. doi:10.1671/0272-4634(2006)26[806:TTAOTG]2.0.CO;2. ISSN 0272-4634. Retrieved 2007-12-25.
  8. Gillette, Lynett. "Winds of Change". San Diego Natural History Museum. Archived from the original on 2009-02-07. Retrieved 2012-04-04.
  9. Aguilera O., Augilera E. R. D. (2004). "Giant-toothed White Sharks and Wide-toothed Mako (Lamnidae) from the Venezuela Neogene: Their Role in the Caribbean, Shallow-water Fish Assemblage". Caribbean Journal of Science 40 (3): 362–368.
  10. Riordon, James (June 1999). "Hell's teeth". NewScientist Magazine (2190): 32.