You thought I couldn’t get any nerdier? You thought I had reached my Ultimate Nerd? Nope, sorry. Today we talk about something ridiculously nerdy. The Kraken. No, I’m joking, we’re actually going to talk about sharks. Specifically, a shark as big as a bus.
Ok so first things first. The basic details about a ridiculously big shark. Whether the shark was 60 or 80 feet long, that really doesn’t matter. They were whale-killers. Forget your average tiny seal snack, Megalodon’s prey were prehistoric whales. Other than that, imagine your every day great white shark, just three times as bigger and you’re good to go.
The real question we’ve all been waiting for is, do they still exist? The 2018 movie, The Meg, based a whole movie around it. Accuracy? Well, if you watch the movie, you’ll find out. The first thing to consider is, where would a Megalodon live? The sea, but specifically, the depths. We have discovered more of the moon than we have of the seas, it’s like the perfect place for a creature longer and toothier than a London bus? And yet, that doesn’t quite make sense because sharks like the great white are a migratory species. They often travel freely throughout the oceans covering large distances. A massive shark wouldn’t possibly stay so deep down they’re beyond human reach.
In fact, assuming they’re in the deep, big sharks need big prey. Again, whales seem like a good-sized breakfast. Yet, has there been any massive shark bites in any whales we see today? Bodies of whales with massive chunks of flesh taken out? Either Megalodons are feeding on something else, a slightly scary thought, or there really isn’t any other prey they could eat. Unless they are cannibalistic. Another scary thought. Also, the large whales that exist today would not have gotten as large as they are today, considering that no whale could happily grow to that size if there were 60 feet monsters causally swimming around.
But then why did Megalodon go extinct? If it was armed with teeth, size and abundant prey? For a long time, scientists thought that due to climate change, the prehistoric whales started migrating up north, where Megalodon may not have been able to follow. Until further research proved that actually, Megalodon fossils were found in waters of 12°C and also waters of only 1°C. This made sense since a lot of modern sharks could regulate their temperature and swim in colder waters too. Instead, the extinction of the Megalodon seems to coincide with two important things: increase of competitors and decrease of prey. Suddenly, the oceans were filled with species such as Livyatan Melvilli, only one of many types of carnivorous whale, armed with vicious teeth. Another new competitor was the modern great white, which finally appeared on the scene. Everything might’ve been fine for Megalodon despite the new competition were it not for the decrease of prey. In particular, whales. The number of whale species were on the decline, from 60 to 40 towards the end of the Pliocene era. Now the Megalodon is running out of its main prey, whereas species like the great white is small and quick enough to eat different prey. The bigger you are, the more food you need. In this case, it was the Megalodon who lost out.
The Megalodon’s extinction also had an impact on the rest of the animal kingdom. The smaller predators that took over the role of apex predators couldn’t hunt the whales that Megalodon once used to hunt, so this allowed whales to explode in size. This is why species like the blue whale only appeared recently in the fossil records, roughly 2 million years ago. It’s also worth noting that today, great white sharks are one meter longer than they were during the time of the Megalodon. What with whales being so massive and with very few predators, this leaves the niche of super-shark wide open. I’m not saying that one of these days we’re going to have Megalodon.2 swimming in the oceans again, but that is exactly what I am saying.
So despite what Hollywood wants you to believe, the Megalodon really just doesn’t exist. Definitely, 100% extinct. Next time I’ll be proving the existence of the Kraken.