Megalodon - Search for the Dinosaur Shark

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  • Tuesday, February 12, 2013
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  • Greig Beck
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  • You’re gonna need a bigger boat!” Chief Brody’s immortal line from JAWS when for the first time, he sees the full size of the shark (if only Quint had listened!). 

    ‘Bruce’ the giant shark in the movie was around 25 feet and weighed in at about 3 tons – a very big fish indeed. Sharks that big can exist, and in many parts of the world – South Africa’s False Bay, South Australia’s Great Australian Bight (aptly titled), California’s Farallon Islands, each has recorded sightings of enormous sharks – all man eaters, all Carcharodon Carcharias – the Great White.

    They are territorial, solitary and aggressive hunters, knowing where the best prey is, and skillfully avoiding their only adversary… mankind. And we are usually smart enough to know not to enter their world unless we are caged in titanium. Truly, they are terrifying creatures, but near insignificant compared to what roamed our seas just over a million years ago. 

    The Megalodon Carcharodon, the dinosaur shark, was the biggest shark that ever lived. In fact it was the biggest predatory marine creature in the history of our planet, outweighing both modern Great White Sharks, Orcas and ancient reptiles like Kronosaurus many times over. 

    Throughout the past century, paleontologists have come up with estimates (based mainly on tooth size and comparisons with modern sharks) ranging from 50 to 100 feet, and adults weight as much as 100 tons – some oversized individuals may have been even bigger. 

    It roamed the seas, all our seas, dining on turtles, whales, and anything else big enough or dumb enough to get in its path – it was a shark that was built for taking huge prey, and was tough enough to follow them into the inky depths of the deep sea trenches. 

    Truly, they were the unparalleled kings of the seas, the alpha-alpha predator, and survived the great mass extinctions of prehistory. But it begs the question – the oceans are still vast, the Megalodon’s prey is still with is, so why aren’t they? Are they gone for good, or just been forced into a retreat to still lurk somewhere in our ocean's depths? 

    Good question – but hang on; something that size must have been seen, or at least left clues, surely? Well, of course – numerous sightings, and not just by rum-soaked seaman or overenthusiastic fiction writers. Here are few pieces of evidence to consider: 

     • In 1918 Port Stephens fishermen refused to go to sea when an immense shark was taking the lobster pots (each around 3 feet across). This shark frightened the locals to the point where they refused to go to sea – this must have been something pretty substantial, as no fishing meant no food and no income. Many of the witnesses claimed the shark was over 100 feet in length, and the monster hung around for weeks. 

     • In March 1954, the Australian Cutter called the Rachel Cohen supposedly ran aground, and when it was in dry-dock having its hull inspected for damage, it was found there was an enormous bite mark around the propeller that was far too large for any modern shark to make. The tooth marks were about 5 inches wide, and the largest Great White has teeth only measuring 2.5 inches. The captain of the Rachel Cohen recalled an impact and shuddering on the ship as they were passing Indonesia, which he thought was the boat simply hitting a floating tree trunk.

     • In 1975, we obtained some further interesting evidence. The HMS Challenger brought up two Megalodon teeth during a deep sea dredging exploration. These teeth date back as recently as 10,000 to 15,000 years, and were dated by estimating the amount of time it took for manganese to accumulate on them. These teeth suggest that as little as 10,000 years ago, a living Megalodon still existed, and was perhaps living in the depths of the ocean to escape extinction. We already know that our oceans are vastly explored and creatures like the giant squid, can exist without being easily sighted, so why not the Megalodon? 

    The size of young Megalodon teeth indicate that the pups, ranging in size from 7 to 13 feet in total length at birth (live birth – not eggs), would be nearly indistinguishable from normal great white sharks (perhaps a little stockier). Once grown to a certain size, they would more than likely move to the deeper water for larger prey, and basically… more room. The adults could simply migrate to the depths, and live out their potential 200-year long lives without being spotted. 

    The last piece of unconfirmed evidence was put forward by B.C. Cartmell in his book titled Let’s Go Fossil Shark Tooth Hunting (1978). It detailed some sonar trackings by “one of the new breed of underwater exploratory vehicles”, of an unidentifiable object about 100 ft long that was travelling faster than any submarine or whale. What was it - Kraken? Megalodon? 

    As I mentioned in my previous post - The deepest trenches in the ocean are thousands of miles long and seven crushing miles deep – sunless, pitiless voids where impossible pressures make it an unexplored and alien place. Who knows what treasures, and horrors, they really contain! 

    MEGALODON - Search for the Dinosaur Shark by GREIG BECK. 12 Feb 2013


    David Wood said...

    Great post, Greig! If I may plug a favorite Meg-themed book, Extinct by Charles Wilson is terrific!

    Greig Beck said...

    Thanks David, and thank you for the tip - I'm going to get that book!

    Rick Chesler said...

    Great post. Steve Alten's Meg series is a favorite of mine whenit comes to Megs.

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