Researchers in the U.K. have revealed the true size of the megalodon, the prehistoric giant shark of Hollywood fame.
Experts from the University of Bristol and Swansea University have shed new light on the giant megalodon, which is history’s largest marine predator. While the modern great white shark can be over 20 feet long, the megalodon, which lived from 23 million to 3 million years ago, was over twice the length of a great white. Scientists can now reveal the size of the rest of the megalodon’s body, including its huge fins.
The researchers note that megalodon fossils are typically huge triangular teeth larger than a human hand. Armed with data from these fossils, scientists used mathematical methods to ascertain the size and proportions of the megalodons. Comparisons were also made with the creature’s living relatives.
“Megalodon is not a direct ancestor of the great white but is equally related to other macropredatory sharks such as the Makos, Salmon shark and Porbeagle shark, as well as the great white,” said Dr. Catalina Pimiento of Swansea University, who supervised the study, in a statement. The makos refers to the two subspecies of mako shark – shortfin and longfin.
Detailed measurements of the modern sharks were pooled to make predictions about the megalodon, Pimiento said.
“Before we could do anything, we had to test whether these five modern sharks changed proportions as they grew up,” added Professor Mike Benton, a paleontologist at the University of Bristol, in the statement. “If, for example, they had been like humans, where babies have big heads and short legs, we would have had some difficulties in projecting the adult proportions for such a huge extinct shark.”
“But we were surprised, and relieved, to discover that in fact that the babies of all these modern predatory sharks start out as little adults, and they don’t change in proportion as they get larger,” he said.
Researcher Jack Cooper, who recently completed his M.Sc. in Palaeobiology at the University of Bristol, explained that the team was then able to work out the proportions of the megalodon. “This means we could simply take the growth curves of the five modern forms and project the overall shape as they get larger and larger – right up to a body length of 16 metres [52.5 feet],” he said.
A 52.5-foot-long megalodon likely had a head 15.3 feet long, a dorsal fin approximately 5.3 feet tall and a tail around 12.6 feet high, the scientists found. “This means an adult human could stand on the back of this shark and would be about the same height as the dorsal fin,” they said, in the statement.
The research is published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Fox News’ Chris Ciaccia and Christopher Carbone contributed to this article.
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