Physical appearance and biology
Carcharodon megalodon (also called Megalodon) is the largest known of all the predatory sharks. It had a streamlined, muscular body and looked like a gigantic version of the much-feared great white shark. Weighing around 48 tonnes, it spent much of its time feeding.
Behaviour and traits
This shark was a powerful predator, capable of making high-speed attack runs. Its mouth could open to over 2 metres wide, revealing a set of giant teeth, some of which were 21 centimetres long and which were sharp enough to cut through the toughest flesh and bone.
Megalodon like to prey on the dolphins and large whales that lived in deep offshore waters. It would cruise around, waiting for one of them to surface. Once a victim was spotted, Megalodon would come at it from underneath, swimming vertically upwards at speed. At the last moment the giant jaws would open and the teeth would be rammed into the prey, tearing out large chunks of its flesh. On its initial attack run, Megalodon would probably go for vulnerable parts of the body, such as the flippers and tail. This would immediately cripple the animal so that it couldn't swim away or dive downwards. Megalodon's teeth would often fall out during these attacks, but new ones would grow in their place.
Juvenile Megalodon were not big enough to attack whales. Their teeth are usually found in shallow waters, suggesting that they lived inshore. Here they probably hunted large fish and smaller marine mammals, such as Odobenocetops.
Fossilzed teeth from Megalodon (which are similar to those of the great white shark) have been found around the world. From their distribution it is possible to see that Megalodon preferred tropical and temperate seas, and did not stray into cold waters. It could, however, live many kilometres from the coast in the open ocean. Other than its teeth, few parts of its body are known. Early estimates gave Megalodon lengths of up to 25 metres, but 16 metres is now thought to be more realistic.
When whales moved from the tropics to the polar regions around 2 million years ago, Megalodon could not follow them because it was a warm-water shark. With its main source of food gone, it soon became extinct.
In Sea Monsters
A juvenile Megalodon was seen swimming above Nigel Marven and an Odobenocetops who was foraging for oysters in some kelp. By taking cover in the foliage, they were able to avoid being caught by the shark.
Later, Nigel and his crew crafted a model Odobenocetops and filled it with squid to entice an adolescent Megalodon. With the camera fitted into the model, it was able to capture the moment when an adolescent Megalodon accelerated from the depths and tore the model apart.
Later, Nigel and his crew prepared for a dive with an adult Megalodon. As they lowered a chum bag into the water and spilled a concoction of blood and fish oil into the water, the scent attracted a huge adult Megalodon. As Nigel swam into a shark cage, the Megalodon came into view. With a shark camera in hand, Nigel tried to pin it onto the shark's dorsal fin but he was unable to reach it. As Nigel's crew teased the Megalodon by continuously raising and dropping the chum bag into the water, the Megalodon became more frisky, attacking Nigel's cage in frustration. Realising that trying to attach the camera from the cage was a lost cause, he escaped the cage and attempted to attach the camera from the Ancient Mariner. However, whilst doing so, the Megalodon jumped out the water and presumably ate Nigel.
Continuing from the previous episode, it was revealed that the Megalodon didn't eat Nigel, it just knocked him off the metal platform he was standing on. Scared out of his skin, Nigel darted out of the water and once again tried to pin the camera to the Megalodon's dorsal fin. However, this time Nigel actually succeeded. Nigel's crew detached the chum bag from the boat and allowed the Megalodon to eat it. As it did so, it swam off.
Days later, the camera that was attached to the Megalodon emerged from the water. Using a tracking device, Nigel was able to track down the whereabouts of the camera. When he and his crew watched the recorded footage, they watched the Megalodon hunt a large whale. The force of the attack knocked off the camera.
Behind the scenes
List of appearances
- Sea Monsters
- Sea Monsters book
- The Complete Guide to Prehistoric Life