The megalodon wasn't as big as we thought!

A new study explains how, unlike the white shark, the megalodon had a more slender body

by Lorenzo Ciotti
The megalodon wasn't as big as we thought!
© Ethan Miller / Staff Getty Images News

The Carcharocles Megalodon wasn't as big as we thought! Unlike how it is represented in science fiction films and novels - a shark of gargantuan proportions - its dimensions would actually have been smaller.
At least this is the result of an international study.

The same study revealed that, compared to modern white sharks, Megalodon had a more slender body. Paleontologist from the University of Pisa Alberto Collareta explained: "The maximum size of this shark, one of the largest marine predators that ever existed, is today estimated at around 15-20 meters in total length and there are few doubts regarding its hypercarnivorous diet.

This deduction comes from the review of an incomplete set of fossil vertebrae belonging to a single Megalodon specimen discovered in Belgium in the nineteenth century. In particular, the total body length of that specimen, when estimated based on the diameter of the vertebrae of the present-day great white shark, is much shorter than the length of the incomplete vertebral column alone (9.2 meters vs 11.1 meters).

This simple observation strongly suggests that the Megalodon was not merely attributable to a more voluminous version of the modern great white shark, but that it differed from the latter for a more slender physiognomy.

Understanding the biology, evolution and extinction of the Megalodon is important in light of the significant impact that this species must have had on the ecology and evolution of the marine ecosystems that gave rise to modern oceans."

What the megalodon really looked like

Scientists suggest that the megalodon was a larger version of the great white shark, although some experts believe it may have been similar to the basking shark or bull shark.

Considered one of the largest and most powerful predators to have ever existed, megalodon fossils suggest it reached a maximum length of 15.3 meters with an average size of 10.5 meters. The jaws could exert a bite force of 78,000 to 89,000 N, although some studies propose up to 108,000 N for some colossal specimens; the maxillary pressure was 500 kg/cm2.

With these parameters, the jaw force of the Megalodon is the most powerful that has ever existed. Their teeth were very robust, suitable for grabbing prey and breaking its bones. From some anomalous discovery sites on the eastern coasts of the United States of America and in the Caribbean, it has been hypothesized that the females of C.

megalodon gave birth to their eggs in protected bays, with particularly shallow waters. Only when the chicks reached a considerable size did they venture into the open sea.