Jul 20, 2019 | Updated: 08:54 AM EDT

Megalodon extinction, a relief for whales?

Oct 27, 2014 06:16 PM EDT

Artistic impression of a megalodon pursuing two Eobalaenoptera whales
(Photo : Wikipedia)

The blue whale currently holds the distinction of being the largest marine animal on earth. Its gargantuan size also makes it the biggest animal in the world. But did you know that whales pale in comparison to this marine predator that saw its existence more than 3 million years ago? In fact, whales are said to have been this predator's main dish--a logical conclusion given its hefty size, 7-inch teeth, and deadly, massive bite.

The Megalodon Shark, considered the ancient era's "terror of the sea", became extinct 2.6 million years ago, according to a study conducted by University of Florida researchers, debunking some speculations that the beast still exists today.

Its extinction could be a relief especially for whales who are said to have been the Megalodon Shark's favorite cuisine. Plus, whales could still hold its record of being the largest existing sea creature.

Previously, the existence of the Megalodon Shark was known through the discovery of their large tooth. Fossils of Megalodon have been found in North America, Europe, Africa and South America, and it was estimated that their height measured around 46 to 59 feet, with weight of about 100 tones. The Register compared the animal to having the "same size as the small X class diesel-electric submarines used for special operations by the Royal Navy in World War II." Its awe-inspiring size comes with a bite considered the most powerful in recorded history, stronger than that of the T-Rex, reports from LiveScience said.

Despite possessing such deadly weapons, the species went extinct just like the dinosaurs. Scientists are currently working on finding out the reasons of the extinction of the Megalodon Shark. Fossils were used in the research to find out their time of extinction.

Chris Clements, a research assistant at the University of Zurich, said that they used the Optimal Linear Estimation (OLE) technique to estimate when the shark went extinct. Reports from Capital Berg said the technique doesn't provide the exact date of extinction, but it gives "a date by which" a species went extinct.

Catalina Pimiento, lead author of the study stated, "I was pinched to the study of Carcharocles Megalodon's extinction because it is fundamental to know when species became extinct in order to be aware of the causes and consequences of such an event. This study might also help other scientists to better understand the potential widespread effects of losing the planet's top predators," Pimiento added.

The sharks had the high potential of their extinction among all other ocean species in this era. With the extinction of Megalodon Sharks, the quantity of small sharks has obviously increased in the past years.

 "When you confiscate large sharks, then small sharks are very abundant and they consume more of the invertebrates that we humans eat. The findings of the study show that large-bodied, shallow-water species of sharks are at greatest risk among marine animals, and the overall risk of shark extinction is substantially higher than for most other vertebrates," Pimiento explained.

Pimiento said, "When we started measuring the time Megalodon's time of extinction, we observed that the modern function and gigantic sizes of filter feeder whales became established at that time. Further investigation will be done in order to find out if Megalodon's extinction played a part in the evolution of these new classes of whales."

The study was recently published in PLOS ONE journal.

Reconstructed megalodon skeleton on display at the Calvert Marine Museum
(Photo : Wikipedia)


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