New discovery opens door to more ideas about megalodons’ iconic body shape


Scientists had been studying and creating an image of what a megalodon looks like for years.

Although known as the largest shark and fish that ever lived, new research suggests that these illustrations of the gigantic great whites have yet to be fully discovered.

About 15 to 3.6 million years ago, there is no doubt that the megatooth shark, Otodus megalodonhad swum across the Earth.

Based on evidence known only from its fossilized teeth and vertebrae, studies have suggested they reached lengths of up to 65 feet.

Unfortunately, there had been no additional evidence, such as a complete skeleton that could accurately draw conclusions about their body shape.

However, new research is “digging holes” in “Meg” theories, which claimed we had no idea what a megalodon looked like, Phys.Org reported.

“This study may seem like a step backwards in science,” Kenshu Shimada said via CBSpaleobiologist at DePaul University and co-author.

Traditional understanding of Great Whites

Lead author Phillip Sternes, a UCR biologist, said in the study published in the international journal Historical biology that “there is currently no scientific means to support or refute previous studies of the body forms of O. megalodon”, and this is because its heir cartilage does not preserve well.

Based on traditional Megalodon body patterns, they are believed to belong to the order Lamniform sharks and share partial warm blood with great whites.

It was previously thought that having some of this warm blood widened the swimming range of sharks, however, new findings suggest it increases their swimming speed.

“Great whites are some of the fastest-swimming sharks, so megalodons were probably also big, fast sharks that you wouldn’t want to encounter in the open ocean,” Sternes said.

Researchers compared five species of warm-blooded Lamniformes to determine Megalodon’s shape and how it differed from eight other families in the order of sharks, including some cold-blooded sharks.

They discovered that the hot or cold blood of a shark have a lot of bearing on the shape of his body.

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A “step backwards” in science

Unlike using actual photos for comparison, Sterne pioneered the use of this two-dimensional drawing technique on sharks to provide “accurate representations” of the species.

He said “it’s a widely used technique in biology and works well for sharks since some specimens only exist in remote locations.”

In addition to the detailed field guide drawings, they made quantitative comparisons of shark fin, head, and body shapes, but found no general patterns to disentangle the differences in body shape.

“Warm blood doesn’t make you a different shaped shark,” Sternes said.

“I encourage others to explore ideas about its body shape and seek out the ultimate treasure of a preserved megalodon fossil. In the meantime, this result removes some confusion about previous discoveries and opens the door again other ideas.”

The author suggested others continue to seek a better understanding of megalodon and use its technique to study hard-to-collect specimens, such as snakes and birds.

“Any meaningful discussion of the body form of O. megalodon would require the discovery of at least one complete or nearly complete skeleton of the species in the fossil record,” said James Wood, another co-author.

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