While movies such as The Meg have given people an idea of how big a megalodon could be, a recent 3-D model published in Science Advances shows how much of an apex predator the otodus megalodon truly was.
The otodus megalodon is estimated to have a total length (from snout to tip of the tail) of 14 to 18 metres. To put that into perspective with today’s aquatic predators, the biggest great white shark ever recorded was 6 metres long.
In movies, such as Jaws and The Meg, people expect the size of these sharks to be over exaggerated for entertainment purposes. However, the size of the megalodon shark in The Meg was depicted as being 23 metres which means that it was only a few feet larger the actual size of a megalodon.
Faster than today’s sharks and swallowing them whole
Not only was the otodus megalodon big but it was fast for its size. It was capable of reaching speeds of 10.3 m/s, allowing it to travel great distances across the ocean in a short amount of time. The research showed that it could swim seven times faster than the largest sharks of today such as the whale shark.
While no research has indicated that underwater buffets ever existed, one thing we do know is that you wouldn’t want to invite the otodus megalodon to the party, because it can consume massive portions of food.
It’s teeth have been measured to be up to 18 centimeters long. This allowed it to chow down on species in similar size to the humpback whale and blue whale, the biggest mammal on Earth today. It could eat a killer whale in just five bites and swallow a great white shark whole.
Typically, its much harder to estimate the size of extinct sharks as their skeletons have poor preservation potential and usually paleontologists are only left with teeth and partial vertebrae to work with. On the contrary, complete skeletons of Tyrannosaurus Rex have been found which has allowed for more accurate information.
The question is, How did such a fierce creature go extinct? While inconclusive, researchers say that the sharks extinction was likely due to the megalodon competing for food with the great white shark which likely caused the bigger shark to go extinct due to it needing to consume more food than the much smaller shark.