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Scientists are discovering the truth about the Megalodon
Featured Image Credit: Getty Stock

Scientists are discovering the truth about the Megalodon

A team of scientists from across the world have come together to provide a 'new hypothesis' on the Megalodon

Scientists are discovering new information about the renowned megalodon shark.

For those of you who aren't aware of the legend of the megalodon - no it's not some made-up word a group of lads came up with in one of their group chats - it's the name of the largest shark ever known. Catch the shark as the subject of a movie here:

The shark - known as Megalodon or simply The Meg - was the largest shark to ever have existed on earth, however, given the fact it went extinct around three millions years ago, little is known about the ginormous fish.

While many of us will breathe a sigh of relief at the possibility of never having to encounter the huge beast when we next venture out for a sea swim, scientists have been left frustrated and keen to find out more about the shark, its size and how it lived.

And now, a team of researchers from across the globe have come together and discovered more about the large toothed creature, contesting previous theories about what it looked like.

The megalodon went extinct around three million years ago.
Getty images/ Victor Habbick/ Visions/ Science Photo Library

In a study titled White shark comparison reveals a slender body for the extinct megatooth shark, Otodus megalodon - published in Palaeontologia Electronia - the team note the 'one major challenge' scientists have faced across the years is figuring out 'exactly what the megalodon looked like because no complete skeleton of the fossil species is known to date'.

While many scientists have used the white shark (Carcharodon carcharisas) as a 'model species to reconstruct the body form' of the megalodon, Phillip Sternes from the University of California Riverside, Patrick Jambura from the University of Vienna and Julia Türtschersimolarly from the University of Vienna headed up a team to provide 'a new hypothesis on the body form of the megalodon'.

The study looks at the comparison between the white shark and the megalodon in a different way.

A team of scientists have come up with a new hypothesis about the megalodon.
Getty Images/ Baris-Ozer

Using a fossil from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels - believed to have 'come from the megalodon due to the large size and structure of the centra' - as well as CT scans of a 'juvenile Carcharodon carcharias specimen' from the MorphoSource database, the team looked at the number of vertebrae the fossils had.

By doing this, the scientists identified there were 'at least four major concerns' with a previous study's findings and reconstruction of the megalodon.

So, what did this help them realise about the biggest shark known to man?

The team believe the shark was actually longer than previously estimated.
Palaeo Electronica/ Sternes et. al

Well, the team discovered 'the extant white shark may not necessarily be an appropriate body form analog for the extinct species'.

"I.e. The Megalodon could have had a different body form," the study notes.

It continues: "In addition, Cooper et al. (2022) noted that their reconstruction of the † O. megalodon head is slightly ‘undersized', but we would argue that, while the overall length of the cranial region relative to its TL may be on par with that of the extant white shark, at least their jaw reconstruction may actually be oversized relative to its body if the overall skeletal organization of the extant white shark."

It also notes the Cooper et. al's reconstruction based the 'entire head and body' on the extant white shark.

Either way, it's a good thing for sea swimmers the shark isn't around today.
Getty Images/ Warpaintcobra

While it's impossible to say what the megalodon looked like for certain, the team resolves the megalodon actually had many more vertebrae than previously believed and subsequently a much more 'elongated' body compared to that of the extant white shark or 'modern white shark'.

The study resolves: "Although its exact body form remains unknown, this proposition represents the most parsimonious empirical evidence, which is a significant step towards deciphering the body form of † O. megalodon ."

It notes the Meg was 'probably slower' than previously believed, too.

So, the megalodon is ultimately believed to have been longer - gulp - but slower - *wipes brow* - either way, it's probably just as well there's no possibility of running into one today.

Topics: Animals, Shark, Science, World News