Whole whales – no problem for Megalodon

Today killer whales are at the top of the food chain, even great white sharks fear them and flee when the whales enter their territory. By the time of Miocene and Pliocene Megalodon, however, the roles would probably have been reversed. The superlative shark probably reigned supreme at the top of the food chain, a position strongly supported by a new study by Swansea University’s Jack Cooper and his team in Science Advances.

As with today’s sharks, the skeleton consisted of Otodus megalodon made of cartilage, which petrifies very badly. In 1860, however, a well-preserved section of a spine was found in Belgium that could be assigned to a megalodon. From this, the working group was able to reconstruct the entire spinal column of an adult animal, which should have been just over eleven meters long. Cooper and co also developed a 3D model of the shark skull derived from the numerous fossil teeth of other megalodons.

Overall, they came up with a total length of 15.9 meters for their model shark, which weighed over 60 tons. Based on these dimensions, the scientists then calculated an energy requirement of 98,000 kilocalories for the animal, which was also able to swim faster than any other known species of shark. In any case, according to the working group, the stomach was designed for the necessary appetite: It held around 10,000 liters, so that even an adult killer whale would have fit inside. Theoretically, a megalodon could have swallowed the black and white small whale in just five bites, according to the calculation.

This food could then have lasted him for almost two months before he would have had to eat again. In fact, the megalodons preyed on the small cetaceans of the time, as fossils testify. However, its size did not save the species from extinction: climate fluctuations in the Miocene and the emergence of more flexible shark species ultimately caused its end.

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