In 2016, the scariest among the sea creatures that inhabited Earth’s primitive oceans received the scientific name of Otodus megalodon, but since the discovery of fossilized teeth of this giant shark in 1875, its size has never been scientifically determined – until now. A group of paleontobiologists determined the dimensions of what is affectionately called “Meg” by Hollywood writers.
The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, showed that the iconic shark was between 15 and 18 meters long and weighed 45 tons. It is considered statistically a point outside the curve.
“It is still an impressively large shark. O. megalodon is an outlier, because almost all other non-planktivorous sharks [plankton-eating animals] have an overall size limit of seven meters. Only a few modern species, such as the whale shark or basking shark, come close to that size, ”explained paleobiologist at DePaul University in Chicago Kenshu Shimada.
More or less extinct
Megalodon belongs to the lamniform order, a group that includes animals with two dorsal fins and one anal; five gill slits; membraneless eyes; and mouth extending beyond eye level.
To determine their size, the researchers used measurements from current species as a basis (the biology of extinct forms is poorly understood; because they are cartilaginous, what is known of them comes from fossilized teeth).
“The results suggest that an O. megalodon had, in approximate values, a head of 4.65 m in length, a dorsal fin of 1.62 m in height and a tail of 3.85 m. Morphometric analyzes also suggest that their dorsal and caudal fins were adapted for rapid predatory locomotion and long periods of swimming ”, says the study.
In six of the 10,000 simulations, the survey showed a 1% chance that megalodons still live today.