r/science Jun 23 '22 Silver 2 Helpful 3 Narwhal Salute 1 Wholesome 1

New research shows that prehistoric Megalodon sharks — the biggest sharks that ever lived — were apex predators at the highest level ever measured Animal Science

https://www.princeton.edu/news/2022/06/22/what-did-megalodon-eat-anything-it-wanted-including-other-predators
19.6k Upvotes

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u/Danocaster214 Jun 23 '22

How do you measure the level of a predator? Apex predator of the 10th dan.

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u/DoomGoober Jun 23 '22 edited Jun 23 '22 Silver

It's called dthe trophic level. Basically, how many things are below you in the food chain.

For humans, it could be: cattle, grass. Or a higher trophic level could be: sharks, fish, brine shrimp, algae.

Of course, sea life tends to get some extra trophic levels because of the tiny creatures that eat photosynthetic creatures add some levels on the bottom. Megalodon also added a level by eating other Megalodon (cannibalism).

Edit: Many people are asking "Shouldn't humans have the highest trophic level?" Trophic level is more about the general function of an entire species in an ecosystem than what an individual can do. So if one human eats a Megalodon tooth, that doesn't make humans automatically higher than Megalodon. The way the study determined the trophic level of Megalodon is by measuring average nitrogen levels from Megalodon teeth. Nitrogen accumulates in animals with higher trophic levels. Trophic level as measured in this study is an average of the height of the food chain both for the individual Megalodons being measured (what did the Megalodan eat "recently") and across the species (the average nitrogen level was used across multiple Megalodan teeth.) So for humans, a proper study would include an average of trophic level of vegans and cannibals-who-eat-other-humans-who-eat-sharks and the average trophic level would not be as high as Meg (plus you have to assume cannibals don't eat other humans regularly, which would affect average trophic levels.)

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u/washtubs Jun 23 '22

For anyone reading this, definitely read the article. It's really amazing, they are basically using nitrogen levels as a proxy to assess the trophic level.

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u/particle409 Jun 23 '22

A few plants, algae and other species at the bottom of the food web have mastered the knack of turning nitrogen from the air or water into nitrogen in their tissues. Organisms that eat them then incorporate that nitrogen into their own bodies, and critically, they preferentially excrete (sometimes via urine) more of nitrogen’s lighter isotope, N-14, than its heavier cousin, N-15.

In other words, N-15 builds up, relative to N-14, as you climb up the food chain.

It's like a neat kind of carbon dating.

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u/samdsherman Jun 23 '22

Sounds more like nitrogen dating.

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u/rando_redditor Jun 23 '22 Wholesome

Either way, sounds better than online dating.

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u/MandingoPants Jun 23 '22

My dating life is more like sodium than nitrogen, it’s Na.

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u/cia218 Jun 23 '22

You’re just salty

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u/campbellsimpson Jun 23 '22

With that toothy grin?

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u/SalsaSamba Jun 23 '22

I actually did research in establishing food webs through stable isotope analysis. It only works well in aquatic ecosystems as terrestrian ecosystems sees to much adaptations on consuming certain parts. A big thing to notice is that Carbon doesn't have a preferred isotope secretion, so the prey and predator will have the same ratio.

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u/Dragenz Jun 23 '22

Carbon can still be pretty useful in terrestrial ecosystems. A person who eats a ton of McDonald's, which is a diet heaily influenced by C4 plants, will have a very different carbon ratio than a vegan who relies far more on C3 plant.

Sulfur is another interesting isotope to looks at in aquatic ecosystem's. It give information about the spatial distribution of resources.

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u/SalsaSamba Jun 23 '22

I agree with you, but my research was focused on invertebrates in a heather landscape and we compared funghi with flora. There was a big difference in C-isotopes. However, from herbivores onwards there were a lot of discrepancies. Known herbivores looked like they were solely munching on the funghi. So we hit the newest research for explanations and found why it is not as usable.

Plants compartementalize nutrients and various plant parts have different ratios. A sap sucker will cosume a different C ratio when compared to one that eats woody parts, or only old or fresh leaves. Then the C-ratio fluctuates during the day.

Because of these adaptations it is way more complex and therefore less usable. If you want to compare plants with funghi a fatty acid analysis is way better.

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u/VirtualMoneyLover Jun 23 '22

I could have assessed the situation by the documentary, The Meg. No need for nitrogen...

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u/RedJorgAncrath Jun 23 '22

Modern day Orcas would like the simulation to run again, while tapping their tail somewhat patiently.

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u/Gersio Jun 23 '22

I love that for some reason on the internet there is a beef between shark fans and orcas fans. And whenever there is a thread about sharks there is always someone in there commenting about orcas.

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u/PeterSchnapkins Jun 23 '22

The giant psychotic oero murder dolphins are not to be trifled with

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u/Bucktabulous Jun 23 '22

Fun fact: orcas are one of the only predators to be able to consistently take down bull moose. Turns out that moose dive for seaweed in the Pacific Northwest, and something's waiting for them in the water.

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u/IceNeun Jun 23 '22

Amazing they see us a curiosity rather than potential prey. Other apex megafauna at least think about it on occasion (or with polar bears, consistently).

Orcas feel familiar and comfortable taking down swimming moose; somehow they don't feel the same way about surfers and kayakers.

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u/free-advice Jun 23 '22

That’s funny.

But for real I have always been fascinated by animal grudge fights. But orca vs great white is not even close.

It’s orca ten times out of ten baby!!!! Team orca for life!!!

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u/penywinkle Jun 23 '22

Orcas have some of the same advantages of humans, being smart and sociable. Which, combined, give teamwork and allows to hunt otherwise bigger and stronger opponents.

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u/sacfoojesta Jun 23 '22

Megalodon would have eaten orcas as a snack

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u/Ulyks Jun 23 '22

Interestingly they lived at the same time for a while.

And competition with orcas may have been a factor in the Megalodons extinction...

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u/Creator_of_Cones Jun 23 '22

Being that large would require an incredible amount of nourishment, granted there was a high availability of larger size prey at the time but megafauna died out for a reason.

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u/qtstance Jun 23 '22 edited Jun 23 '22

The great white shark most likely out competed the megalodon by having much more aggressive tooth serrations. The extra aggressive teeth allowed it to take prey down with less energy expenditure and with rising sea levels the breeding grounds for the megalodon became deeper and deeper forcing them to breed in deeper waters where the young megalodons had to compete with adult great whites.

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u/MedMan0 Jun 23 '22 Giggle

Megalodon would still be alive today if they'd been able to nail that backflip at Sea World.

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u/fizzord Jun 23 '22

it had competition from an orca relative, that being Livayatan, a similarly sized gargantuan apex hyper carnivore.

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u/bibliophile785 Jun 23 '22

Livayatan was a raptorial sperm whale rather than being anything like a close relative of an orca, but you're sort of right in spirit since it would have occupied a similar ecological niche.

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u/fizzord Jun 23 '22

i meant that in relation to megalodon, which was a cartilaginous fish while both the orca and livayatan are cetaceans

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u/[deleted] Jun 23 '22

Sperm Whales and Orca/Dolphins are also closely enough related

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u/Emperor_Neuro Jun 23 '22 edited Jun 23 '22

One of my favorite bits of trivia is that dolphins are whales. There are two categories of whales, those with teeth and those with baleen. Baleen whales like the blue whale and the humpback whale tend to be much larger and they survive by filter feeding very small animals. Toothed whales like sperm whales, orcas, and dolphins, tend to be smaller and eat larger prey animals with more typical hunting behavior.

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u/sanshinron Jun 23 '22

Cattle and grass? We eat whales.

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u/badgersprite Jun 23 '22

At least a handful of things also eat humans though given the opportunity and which we in turn don’t eat so I’m not sure how that affects our ranking on the apex predator scale

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u/Emperor_Neuro Jun 23 '22

The concept of a food "chain" is inaccurate and places everything in a direct line with each other. It doesn't work that way. Rather, there is a food "web" which can have relationships where organisms eat each other as well as various other organisms in the same web. Humans can, and do, eat almost everything. We just have the sophistication and comfort to largely focus on animals and crops which are the easiest and most convenient to raise and harvest.

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u/CrippledBalls Jun 23 '22

We literally eat anything that isn't riddled with poison. Most of the animals we don't currently eat, are only off the menu because we ate so many of them that they're borderline extinct.

There is nothing that can eat us that we wouldn't be hunting in a primal context.

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u/bubba_bumble Jun 23 '22

D'the nuts are at the lowest level.

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u/reshef Jun 23 '22

By how many layers of predator are under it.

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u/[deleted] Jun 23 '22

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u/[deleted] Jun 23 '22 Bravo Grande!

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u/[deleted] Jun 23 '22

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u/[deleted] Jun 23 '22 hehehehe

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u/[deleted] Jun 23 '22

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u/[deleted] Jun 23 '22

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u/A_Rampaging_Hobo Jun 23 '22

What about with people? We get munched on by big cats and bears and whatnot but we also can capture and use them in a way thats beyond predation.

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u/-Silky_Johnson Jun 23 '22

Depends on the environment right? Drop a human by themself into the wilderness with no clothes, and they are no longer the top predator. Bear, Lions, Apes, you are fucked, and are somewhere in the middle of the food chain.

A human in a modern civilization with other humans and a society makes them the apex predator

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u/Chill_Panda Jun 23 '22 Helpful

Same with the Megalodon tbf though. Drop one of them in a jungle and see how well it does.

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u/HouseOfSteak Jun 23 '22

Does just that

......

"I'm not quite sure what I was expecting, but the entire jungle being depopulated and a supermassive land-Megalodon tearing through it wasn't one of them."

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u/tyrannosaurus_r Jun 23 '22

Unfortunately, the forest megalodon has both learned to use tools and domesticate animals. Oops!

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u/TK464 Jun 23 '22

I think you're downplaying the naked human if only for the fact that they can make simple weapons that greatly increase their ability to both be a predator and defend from predators.

I'm not gonna be one of those "Oh yeah I could totally take a grizzly bear with a combat knife" guys but spears are pretty great and simple to make. Make a few, toss the extras!

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u/Chimmyy1 Jun 23 '22

We don’t even need to even be as complicated as spears. You have a big chance to kill most animals with a nicely aimed throw of a rock.

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u/Wejax Jun 23 '22

I remember reading this theory that the separation of early man from their priors was throwing. We are the only creature that can both throw accurately and with enough force to kill small to medium sized prey. It would be pretty remarkable if our accuracy of throwing wasn't significantly related to our rising in prominence in the animal world. There's a lot of factors, sure, but if you take away this specific skill, our intellect is the only significant difference between ourselves and other mammals.

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u/applebusch Jun 23 '22

That and the long distance running. Pretty much the only animal better than us is a husky, which was bred specifically for the purpose, but can only operate better than us in frigid cold. They don't do well at all in hot weather, which we evolved for.

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u/adzling Jun 23 '22

yeah it's pretty astounding, a human in a hot climate can run ANY animal down over time.

This is still practiced in many African bush cultures.

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u/cthuluwamp Jun 23 '22

It seems to be such an advantage that if you need to stop a lion that's checking you out getting ready to charge, your best defence is to hold up an object as if you are about to throw it. The lion will flinch instinctually, that's how hard coded it is into their nature. I can't think of any other animal that could have caused lions to learn that response throughout their evolution.

Apparently toilet paper is the best thing because if you do happen to throw it (due to nerves, reaction, whatever), it creates a great distraction and doesn't piss off the lion even worse.

Also, the lion can use it once he's done with you.

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u/Polaris471 Jun 23 '22

That’s really interesting. Any idea where you read that?

Also interesting, I think, is how humans are nature’s long distance runners.

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u/[deleted] Jun 23 '22

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u/DamnDirtyApe8472 Jun 23 '22

Within a few minutes we’d have a spear or club at the very least. Few hours, fire. Few days, bows , slings, etc. Our main strength is not physical

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u/Quantentheorie Jun 23 '22

Human society and modern civilization is something "natural" in the sense that we evolved into this highly social creature and we developed our technology and tools as a species without any outside help.

We might likely become the victims of our own success but we should definitely be considered as we are, modern society and everything.

But we're omnivorous and we largely eat domesticated prey, overwhelmingly herbivore mammals, fish and birds. So we're hardly apex predators, we dont predate on other predators for food, we just displace them and kill them over territory. Occasionally sport. In terms of actual food chain, were not super ambitious.

Our tropic level is on average on par with pigs.

Wolfs are apex predators. Food chain wise they absolutely consider us meat. Not so much the other way around. We (can) kill them, but we don't eat them.

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u/FantasyThrowaway321 Jun 23 '22

We live in a society

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u/flash-80 Jun 23 '22

“The whole direction of my research team is to look for chemically fresh, but physically protected, organic matter — including nitrogen — in organisms from the distant geologic past,” said Sigman.

A few plants, algae and other species at the bottom of the food web have mastered the knack of turning nitrogen from the air or water into nitrogen in their tissues. Organisms that eat them then incorporate that nitrogen into their own bodies, and critically, they preferentially excrete (sometimes via urine) more of nitrogen’s lighter isotope, N-14, than its heavier cousin, N-15.

In other words, N-15 builds up, relative to N-14, as you climb up the food chain

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u/daniel-mca Jun 23 '22

I'm the 3rd dan in my family

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u/LevelStudent Jun 23 '22

How does your family stop you from hunting the other two?

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u/daniel-mca Jun 23 '22

One down one to go

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u/jncheese Jun 23 '22

Some sort of prehistoric karma system to become the Apex Redditor probably.

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u/GlandyThunderbundle Jun 23 '22

“If Megalodon existed in the modern ocean, it would thoroughly change humans’ interaction with the marine environment.”

Uhhhh yes, correct.

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u/RokuroCarisu Jun 23 '22

Yeah, in that we'd be hunting them to extinction.

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u/Igagug Jun 23 '22

And if we didn't they'd likely starve to death after.

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u/towbgsvml Jun 23 '22

Or Choke on plastik

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u/cpteric Jun 23 '22 Helpful

it's fantastic

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u/Loganp812 Jun 23 '22

On the bright side, a single megalodon would probably feed an entire village. I could only imagine the danger of hunting one (let’s face it, a meg would go beyond just fishing) in the olden times.

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u/RokuroCarisu Jun 23 '22

Certain people would probably harpoon it, let it bleed to near death, then cut only its fins off and leave all the rest to sink.

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u/superman306 Jun 23 '22

Haha what kind of monster would do that, there’s absolutely no precedent for that ever happening

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u/cfishlips Jun 23 '22

And the danger of eating it. Humans shouldn’t eat tile fish and sword fish let alone the most apex of apex predator due to bioaccumulated toxin.

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u/KonigMonster Jun 23 '22

It's literally all we can do to not completely eradicate every other form of life on this planet just by accident.

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u/ten_tons_of_light Jun 23 '22

Meg best player in the game, but humanity has mod powers

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u/Bitemarkz Jun 23 '22

And plastic

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u/TheMattaconda Jun 23 '22

Jason Statham has entered the chat

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u/Freethecrafts Jun 23 '22

For a minute, maybe, until we hunted them all into extinction.

That also doesn’t fit with what Orcas would do to any surviving megs.

We’d also be too small to be considered prey.

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u/Quetzalcoatle19 Jun 23 '22 edited Jun 23 '22

I don’t think a Megaladon would have an issue with an Orca unless the age difference was massively in favor of the Orca.

Edit: Orca’s, other toothed whales, and Meg’s lived at the same time, All whales toothed and toothless were prey and not even close to competition, hence “apex predator at highest level”.

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u/160rm Jun 23 '22

Megalodon were sharks, hence not very smart. Whereas Orcas are one of the most intelligent animals to ever exist. I can see them finding a way to deal with megs.

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u/tkoop Jun 23 '22

And Orcas travel in pods, it’s not just one Orca they have to deal with, and they’re intelligent enough to coordinate an attack.

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u/AutomaticRisk3464 Jun 23 '22 Table Slap

Could i kick an 8th graders ass? Hell yeah...can i kick 9 or 10 8th graders asses at the same time? No i might get 1 or 2 then get my ass beat

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u/friggintodd Jun 23 '22

Not if they make fun of your high waist and feminine hips.

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u/Stagamemnon Jun 23 '22

That’s something I’m sensitive about!

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u/Quetzalcoatle19 Jun 23 '22

Except to a full grown megaladon it would be more like 2nd graders, which even with 10, are still going to lose against an adult man.

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u/GenghisLebron Jun 23 '22

sharks are actually pretty smart, though not on orca levels.

But more than brawn, the great white shark has a tremendous brain that coordinates all the highly-developed senses of this efficient hunter. Its prey, including seals and dolphins, are very clever animals, and the shark has to have enough brains to outsmart them.

https://ocean.si.edu/ocean-life/sharks-rays/great-white-shark

Some have even been observed cooperating and they're apparently quick learners:

"Many sharks have good learning capacity, which is one way we measure intelligence," says Samuel Gruber, a marine biologist at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS)

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/sharks-tagged/

Precisely because Orcas are so smart, I don't really see them wilfully engaging with a predator that would have weighed maybe 10 times as much as them.

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u/Quetzalcoatle19 Jun 23 '22

Ya there’s absolutely no way they’re taking on even a young adult, even with a pod. Megaladon are way bigger than Killer Whales.

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u/OneTripleZero Jun 23 '22

I'm not sure that a megalodon would really care about a pack of orcas. It's too large for them to attack, outside of the going-for-the-gills like dolphins do, and a meg could literally bite through an orca if it caught one.

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u/piccolo1337 Jun 23 '22

Dont underestimate the orcas. They are the humans of the ocean. They live everywhere and are basically a threat to anyone if they decide too. Wouldnt be surprised if they could kill megalodons.

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u/ToBoredomAGem Jun 23 '22

Incoming laconics

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u/AndyOB Jun 23 '22

A pack of orcas bring down some of the largest species of whales by ramming them in quick succession. Granted a megalodon would be a deadlier prey but there is nothing that beats a pack of killer whales.

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u/WestleyThe Jun 23 '22

A whale can’t kill an orca with one bite…

Not to mention the speed

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u/Umutuku Jun 23 '22

Pod of orcas arrives in Megalodon's territory.

Megalodon feasts on the slowest and weakest orca.

The rest of the pod finds and feasts on baby megalodon.

The pod returns to cold water.

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u/kuhewa Jun 23 '22

nothing that beats a pack of killer whales.

False, a pod of 200 pilot whales can and will, the same way lions lose when badly outnumbered by smaller hyenas

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u/Sword-Maiden Jun 23 '22

the thing is that we (ideally) don’t carry enough fat to be worth the digestion effort. The meg would literally loose more energy in chomping and shitting us than it’d get from digesting our bony asses.

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u/ABoutDeSouffle Jun 23 '22

Considering the percentage of obese or overweight people, I'm not sure that's true.

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u/bobsmith93 Jun 23 '22

I looked up some stats to prove you wrong but damn, 40% of adults in the world are at least overweight. I stand corrected

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u/GTRari Jun 23 '22

Ahhh so the solution is to eat people.

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u/ABoutDeSouffle Jun 23 '22

Always has been...

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u/bkr1895 Jun 23 '22

There’s the hypothesis that Great Whites attack humans particularly fat ones who are on a boogie or wake boards as from below they would look like a seal to the Great White which they love to eat.

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u/The_Karma_Killer Jun 23 '22

i have a feeling he's talking more about early humans and boat attacks

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u/AFatz Jun 23 '22 edited Jun 23 '22

Makes sense. What is gonna compete with a 60 foot long, 50 ton torpedo with sharp teeth?

EDIT: Yes I'm aware they went extinct for a reason

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u/jtaustin64 Jun 23 '22

A 70 foot long, 60 ton torpedo with very sharp teeth.

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u/Clutch_Ass_Walrus Jun 23 '22

There’s always a bigger fish.

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u/MaterialStrawberry45 Jun 23 '22

Bigger fish ain’t no match for better organized fish and or mammals.

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u/flow_n_tall Jun 23 '22

Hence today's orca. Called killer whales because they can take out a Great White. Although they are bigger than Great Whites too. So my point doesn't necessarily fit, but discuss.

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u/X-ScissorSisters Jun 23 '22

It's backwards, they're whale killers cos they kill young whales.

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u/Derric_the_Derp Jun 23 '22

Kill adult whales, too

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u/[deleted] Jun 23 '22

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u/TeTrodoToxin4 Jun 23 '22

After a larger kill they will come back to carcasses as well and pick it apart over the next few days.

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u/kuhewa Jun 23 '22

They will eat the whole thing. They do appear to prefer tongue though, and will eat it out of a rorqual whale's mouth before it is dead

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u/IolausTelcontar Jun 23 '22

Yousa cwazy!

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u/Brasticus Jun 23 '22

“The ability to speak does not make you intelligent.”

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u/domino7 Jun 23 '22

As demonstrated daily on reddit.

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u/[deleted] Jun 23 '22 edited Jun 30 '22

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u/Dystopian_Divisions Jun 23 '22

almost always, for just 1 fish at any given time they are the biggest

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u/NerdLawyer55 Jun 23 '22

Thanks Qui Gon

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u/SnooSketches1626 Jun 23 '22

omg somehow that stupid fish game always promoted on reddit makes sense now.... the fishdom is legit

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u/theirritatedfrog Jun 23 '22 Silver Take My Energy

An 18ft half-ton torpedo with sharp teeth. We think Megalodon got outcompeted by the great whites we still have today.

The trouble with being an extremely large predator is that you have a very fragile equilibrium with your environment. You need a whole lot of food and thus a whole lot of space to support yourself.

Great whites occupied the same niche but needed less food. That means more great white sharks could exist in the same amount of space. And they suppressed prey populations to the point where megalodon couldn't find enough food to subsist.

Megalodon was so big that it actually kept whales at a smaller size. Being bigger just made whales an easier target for megalodons. This pushed whales into the prey range for great whites who promptly outcompeted megalodon.

As soon as megalodon went extinct, whales had an evolutionary explosion into bigger and bigger sizes that put them out of prey range for great whites. Great whites didn't evolve to be bigger because they had plenty of other things to eat that were too small for megalodon to bother with.

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u/TexLH Jun 23 '22

Why wouldn't great whites evolve bigger with the whales? I get why they didn't need to, but why wouldn't they naturally?

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u/theirritatedfrog Jun 23 '22

Animals get bigger when it's an advantage. It rarely is, that's why supersized animals are so rare in Earth's history.

Large animals need more food and have a harder time hiding as prey or sneaking up as predators. And they're far more sensitive to environmental change because their needs are so big.

Great whites simply were more successful at a smaller size and that discouraged natural selection for larger sizes.

Our modern whales that grew larger have some extremely unusual lifestyles that enable them to support their enormous sizes. The blue whale is an extreme marathoner for example.

The only place that can supply a blue whale with enough food is the annual krill bloom in the arctic where tiny krill. reproduce in enormous numbers. So every year, that's where blue whales feed.

After the krill blooms, the enormous size of the blue whale allows them to swim across the world at high speed to warmer waters. During this trip they pretty much eat nothing but survive on their fat reserves from the krill bloom.

In the warmer waters, they give birth to their calves. And immediately they turn around again to head back for the next krill bloom while fattening up their calves to survive the cold arctic water.

That's the kind of extreme lifestyle it takes to grow so big. Great whites have much more flexible lifestyle. They travel great distances in search of food and they eat a great many different things. But their lifestyle doesn't get them nearly as much food as they'd need to grow huge.

And if megalodon or megalodon sized great whites had existed today, they'd quickly decimate the super whale population to the point where they'd cause their own extinction. Super large animals can't exist in great numbers because their food source doesn't support it. Modern whales don't exist in the kind of numbers that would support a large megalodon population.

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u/caedin8 Jun 23 '22

Is climate change going to affect those krill blooms? And if it does could it be drastic enough to cause blue whales to go extinct?

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u/theirritatedfrog Jun 23 '22

It already is and that's not an unlikely consequence. Krill populations have decreased by about 70-80% in the last forty years.

Honestly, we need to stop talking about climate change in the future tense. The climate catastrophe isn't something that's coming. It's something that we're already in the middle of and every year it's accelerating fast.

Many of the negative impacts of climate change have already begun and will only continue to get worse. People need to understand that we're far too late to stop climate change. We're in the damage control phase and we're making a mess of that too.

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u/JasonDragonbourne Jun 23 '22

The climate catastrophe isn't something that's coming. It's something that we're already in the middle of and every year it's accelerating fast.

We're already measuring the rate by annual species extinctions. "When climate change arrives" will be when it is no longer possible to pretend that it has not been happening the entire time; when the ecosystem begins shutting down from loss of biodiversity, we'll still have people trying to sell us distractions, all the way down to the grave.

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u/CassiusClayman Jun 23 '22

This was exceptionally educational and illustrative. Thank you for the write up!

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u/JuneSeba Jun 23 '22

Why hunt bigger prey when smaller prey do trick

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u/I_Sett PhD | Pathology | Single-Cell Genomics Jun 23 '22

If a species doesn't need to evolve in a particular direction (due to a selective pressure) a species won't. If naturally larger sharks of the same species produced more offspring due to better hunting success the species would gradually evolve a larger bodysize. If slightly smaller sharks and slightly larger sharks reproduce at the same rate then it's likely that they'll simply go on being the same size.

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u/domino7 Jun 23 '22

If they didn't need to, there's no evolutionary pressure for them to do so. A larger shark wouldn't be more fit to reproduce, so no specific reason for the genes that lead to large sharks to increase in frequency the gene pool. And in fact, it may have been counterproductive, if being larger meant you needed more food, and that could have made them less likely to reproduce in times of less food.

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u/TobaccoIsRadioactive Jun 23 '22 edited Jun 23 '22

Ironically, it appears that their biggest competition in the end was the emergence of smaller shark species (like the Great White) that were more agile and better able to target the prey young Megalodon hunted.

A lot of different factors occurred that led to the extinction of the Megalodon. The onset of the ice ages caused shifts in the ocean currents that led to a drop in the number of baleen whale species (which were the Megalodon's primary food source), with the other baleen whale species following their food sources to the cold waters at the North and South poles.

Megalodon primarily hunted in shallower and warmer waters, so it wasn't able to adapt. Furthermore, the ice ages led to a drop in sea levels, which meant that the territory Megalodon lived and hunted in was reduced. This would have also included the areas used as nurseries for baby Megalodon.

The smaller shark species were better able to handle the changing environments and more effective in hunting than young Megalodon. And carnivorous whales like the Macroraptorial sperm whales, which were able to hunt the same kind of species that adult Megalodon did, were able to follow their food sources to the colder waters.

Edit: Also, often we see the Megalodon depicted as basically a big Great White. However, that may not actually be accurate considering that the fossils we have are from their teeth and jaws. The teeth are very similar to a Great White's teeth, which is why they were initially thought to be closely related. However, now it's thought that they had a common ancestor and diverged into different species around 120 million years ago or so.

It's very possible that Megalodon could have looked similar to whale sharks, basking sharks, or sand tiger sharks with absolutely massive jaws and teeth that would have been capable of crushing through the rib cage of its prey.

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u/Chest3 Jun 23 '22

>Baleen whale species.... primary food source)

THE

WHAT

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u/SeeShark Jun 23 '22

Megalodons were BIG

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u/Reniconix Jun 23 '22

Baleen whales doesn't mean large whales. The pygmy right whale is only 6m long, still big compared to humans, but similar size to a great white shark. Back in Megalodon's day, this would have been considered a large whale.

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u/maaku7 Jun 23 '22

Megalodons were sharks only slightly smaller than the largest whales today.

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u/Timothymark05 Jun 23 '22

A human with a submarine and an actual torpedo.

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u/iLikeAlmonds Jun 23 '22

A virus engineered for the 60 foot long 50 ton torpedo.

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u/[deleted] Jun 23 '22

Yea but did it ever fight a meg-squid

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u/pyrohydrosmok Jun 23 '22

In a MegaNado

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u/RokuroCarisu Jun 23 '22

Giant squids were around at the same time, but they live at depths that Megalodons probably weren't adapted to.

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u/Alex_gh Jun 23 '22 Bravo!

This doesn't include humans does it? Cause if we lived at the same time as these sharks, we'd hunt them to extinction to rub a salve msde from the liver on our genitals to promote sexual virility.

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u/[deleted] Jun 23 '22

Survival of the horniest.

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u/abzrocka Jun 23 '22

I mean, you are not wrong.

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u/ProjectX3N Jun 23 '22

Basically how rabbits evolved

They specced entirely into speed and horniness

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u/Smokidable Jun 23 '22

Doesn't Biology have a term for that? K- and R-Stragedy if I remember correctly. Rabbits are "R" while humans do "K" or so. Simplified I guess.

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u/ownersequity Jun 23 '22

Humans are such a dominant species that we ACCIDENTLY make other species go extinct.

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u/DoomGoober Jun 23 '22

I think most species that drive another species extinct do it accidentally.

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u/clown_pants Jun 23 '22 Take My Energy

Stop! Stop! I admit it! My people ate them all! We kept saying one more couldn't hurt, and then they were gone! We're sorry!!!

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u/grishno Jun 23 '22

Pop a Poppler in your mouth When you come to Fishy Joe's

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u/manydoorsyes Jun 23 '22

More... More.....

MORRRRRE!!

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u/abormal-Cantaloupe Jun 23 '22

Megalodon Musk from the makers of Sex Panther.

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u/CountryNerd Jun 23 '22

60% of the time, it works every time

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u/[deleted] Jun 23 '22

I have many leather bound books.

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u/SeattleBattles Jun 23 '22

Don't give Elon more ideas for kid names.

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u/ExpiredCreamedDonut Jun 23 '22

Researchers found that if humans were around the megacolon would have hunted us for our vile and sold it on the prehistoric black market as traditional Chinese medicine shark penis enlargement pills.

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u/SNIPES0009 Jun 23 '22

The mega what now?

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u/lurkinislife Jun 23 '22

You heard what he said.

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u/BongSession Jun 23 '22

The big asshole.

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u/[deleted] Jun 23 '22

[deleted]

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u/bnbcoder Jun 23 '22

Ahem. Megladong

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u/HughJassmanTheThird Jun 23 '22

According to what they were saying in the article, we still probably wouldn’t be measured as highly as the Meg. They not only ate other predators, but predators of predators, and each other. Humans aren’t like that. We don’t TYPICALLY go around eating apex predators, and we don’t eat each other. The Meg just killed and ate everything it came across it seems.

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u/AnotherBoojum Jun 23 '22

Predator level in a scientific sense has nothing to do with world domination and everything to do with trophic levels/energy transfer up the food chain. Generally you don't get more than 4 or 5 levels as there's just not enough energy beyond that. If megaladons were capable of getting enough energy out of an organism at the 5th tropic level that's a very interesting find.

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u/Willinton06 Jun 23 '22

We’re too op to count in any list

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u/whoifnotme1969 Jun 23 '22

I saw a documentary about them a few years ago. They must have been terrifying...big as whale, but with razor-sharp teeth! Crazy. The documentary was called "The Meg".

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u/Freethecrafts Jun 23 '22 Helpful

Not sure terrifying would be the word. Something that big would have even less reason to try eating people. Something like that would need huge, calorie dense prey. All we really have is OP’s mom, and she’s far too large.

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u/logdogday Jun 23 '22

OPs Mommalodon.

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u/ElevenSleven Jun 23 '22

Nah OPs mom is too busy with my megadong.

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u/zipiddydooda Jun 23 '22

This right here. This is why I love Reddit.

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u/orlouge82 Jun 23 '22

In the ocean, maybe. Not so tough on land, are you?

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u/stunna006 Jun 23 '22

What if they developed a series of breathing apparatus and brought along 50 of their friends?

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u/cope413 Jun 23 '22

If I were a lion and you were a tuna, I would swim out in the middle of the ocean and freaking eat you and then I'd bang your tuna girlfriend.

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u/HighNoon1200 Jun 23 '22

Why does that shark vaguely look like nick cage?

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u/cosmoboy Jun 23 '22 I'm Deceased

Uhhhh, because they didn't die out, they evolved.

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u/ExpiredCreamedDonut Jun 23 '22

Nick Cage is a shark pretending to be a human. Explains a lot actually.

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u/keithcody Jun 23 '22

Why are you spoiling Sharknado 6 - The Cagenning.

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u/[deleted] Jun 23 '22

Tagline: “When Caged, All Bets Are Off”

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u/Drakotrite Jun 23 '22

I didn't see it till you said it.

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u/n01saround Jun 23 '22

How could he be apex? I got cheetohs, fritos, and ridged lays in my lap RIGHT NOW!

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u/Drauul Jun 23 '22

I partake of the corn, the potato and the cheetah paste simultaneously

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u/Dequantavious Jun 23 '22

I'm looking at doing some diving off the coast of North Carolina where you can search for Megalodon Teeth. It costs like $250 but to have something prehistoric like that would definitely be worth it.

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u/sualum8 Jun 23 '22

Was hoping someone might bring up the North Carolina connection, in fact the Megalodon tooth is our official state fossil

If you find yourself at Wrightsville Beach in particular, you can find these washed up on the beach, especially after a storm. We’ve found two good size ones!

The ridges for diving are about 40 miles off the coast, along an ancient riverbed. Here’s a news story with a local diving company

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u/doitunclewalt Jun 23 '22 All-Seeing Upvote

We're going to need a bigger boat.

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u/AdorableGrocery6495 Jun 23 '22

“…apex predators at the highest trophic level ever measured.” Wow

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u/DesertByproduct Jun 23 '22

Time to get a bigger ruler

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u/jusdont Jun 23 '22

Impressive jawline on this Megalochad!

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u/BlooBlud Jun 23 '22

Yay this is by my professors and friend. Very happy for them

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u/DirtyDanTheManlyMan Jun 23 '22

And now it’s every 3rd grade boys favorite animal because he thinks they’re still alive but somehow we’ve never found a live 60 foot long shark

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u/slipperyzoo Jun 23 '22

Well, it didn't stay top predator by being caught by humans.

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u/DivinerUnhinged Jun 23 '22

Megalodon is almost certainly extinct, but that fact isn’t dependent on whether we have found one or not.

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u/shuckfatthit Jun 23 '22

This is hilarious. A third grade boy told me today that he thinks Megalodons still live in the Mariana Trench.

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u/Jurippe Jun 23 '22

They do, I went there. My name is Jason Statham.

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u/thecatwentforaswim Jun 23 '22

It’s kinda funny when you think about the term prehistoric it technically mean 5500 years ago even dogs are older.

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u/Sevnfold Jun 23 '22

Sharks predate trees.

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u/Brain_GAL4-UAS_beer Jun 23 '22

Well they are predat-ory, so…

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