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Researchers now know that the megalodon was really that big

An illustration of the megalodon.

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The megalodon is an extinct legend. The only fossils of the giant time shark found are its teeth, each the size of a human hand. The prehistoric predator roamed the oceans over 2.6 million years ago. Its skeleton was made of cartilage, just like today’s sharks. However, this makes it particularly difficult to locate fossils, since cartilage is very soft and therefore disintegrates faster.

Until now, it was assumed that the megalodon was up to 18 meters long and could therefore assume the size of a small yacht. However, the exact proportions of the head and fins were previously unknown. In the past week, scientists from the University of Bristol and Swansea University in England have provided new insights into the dimensions of the giant clock creature.

According to their study, its dorsal fin was about 1.65 meters long. The head should have reached a length of 4.65 meters, so comparable to a car. To determine the measurements, the researchers analyzed the length, stature and physical proportions of five living descendants – including those of the great white shark. All sharks had similar body shapes, which suggests that the megalodon was built the same way. This enabled the researchers to infer its size from the few finds.

The primeval shark could catch prey in short, quick bursts

Unlike us humans, the body proportions of sharks do not change as they get older. This makes it easier for researchers to estimate the possible size of the shark.

By studying the living shark specimens, the researchers were able to gain better insight not only into the external appearance of the megalodon, but also how the time-of-day shark lived and moved. Scientists believe that the shark’s dorsal fin was curved outward, an adaptation that likely helped it swim for a long time. This could also have enabled the megalodon to swim in short, quick bursts to catch prey in its huge jaws.

The scientists hope that the new analyzes will provide further details about the life of the megalodon and how the shark became extinct.

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This article was translated from English by Klemens Handke. You can find the original here.

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