Mega sharks died out some 2.6 million years ago, but not necessarily for the reasons you might have assumed.
Capable of growing up to 18 metres long, the Carcharocles Megalodon had teeth measuring anywhere up to an astonishing 18 centimetres in length, and a jaw capable of generating a force of up to 18.2 tons.
For 14 million years this giant sea predator ruled the briny deep, but it did not last and their extinction would eventually come about in unusual circumstances linked to their rather specific diet.
According to research published by New Scientist, the mega shark’s extinction was set into motion by the cooling of the Earth’s climate.
This, in turn, resulted in a major decline in the number of dwarf whales, a species the scientists discovered represented the Megalodon’s primary source of food.
“The disappearance of the last giant-toothed shark could have been triggered by the decline and fall of several dynasties of small to medium-sized baleen whales in favour of modern, gigantic baleen whales,” University of Pisa academic and study author Alberto Collareta explained.
The research involved the careful examination of seven-million-old fossilized mega shark teeth.
First discovered in Peru, the teeth were found to feature scrape marks and wounds consistent with a diet of dwarf sharks and occasionally seals otherwise known as Piscobalaena nana and Piscophoca pacifica respectively.
The researchers noted that climate change cause both of these species to move into the open-ocean – an environment they were unfit to survive in.
By contrast, larger whales that were unsuitable for consumption among mega sharks thrived, leaving Megalodon numbers to dwindle to eventually nothing.
So it turns out the mega shark may have been undone by a very human problem – they were picky eaters.
Still, while the mega shark may be long gone, we could have a new challenge to contend with following the discovery of a two-headed shark late last year.
Stay out of the water, guys.