A megalodon’s head alone was the size of a car.
The prehistoric monster of Hollywood fame was the largest carnivorous shark that has ever wandered around the ocean. It reached lengths of 50 feet with dorsal fins pushing 5 feet out of the water.
According to a new study, baby megalodons set themselves up to become superstore before they were born.
My eggs hatched inside the womb where the babies got bigger and hungrier before their mothers ever gave birth. However, not all embryos survived the pregnancy process: Some were eaten by their uterine mates.
“‘Early hatched’ embryos will begin to eat surrounding uncovered eggs,”
Megalodon puppies were larger than most adults at birth, found Shimada’s team and reached lengths of more than 6 feet. It gave them an advantage – perhaps a fine up against hungry predators that preyed on newborn sharks.
Hatching first has its benefits
Megalodons died more than 3 million years ago. All we have left are their 6-inch, serrated teeth and a smattering of bones. This lack of fossils makes it challenging for scientists to figure out how large these creatures became and what enabled them to reach such enormous sizes.
So scientists are making well-educated guesses about megalodons based on their modern counterparts.
In an earlier analysis, Shimada’s group looked at how the modern relatives of megalodons, called lamniforms, live today. This group includes great whites, macos and sand tigers, which have the same diet and body type as megalodons had.
This comparison is how the researchers determined that megalodon children were likely to eat each other. Current female lamniforms still hatch inside the mother’s body, then the puppies develop in her lap before they are born. The embryos that hatch early sometimes eat their hatched brothers and sisters – a process called intrauterine cannibalism.
“I think it’s really a question of which hatches first, but more work is needed to determine this,” Shimada said.
True tiger shark puppies sometimes also eat their littermates after they are born.
For megalodon shark mothers, it would have been hard to have cannibalistic offspring in the womb, as the sharks had to spend a lot of energy feeding puppies so large.
“But the price must have been offset by the benefits of newborns having the advantage of being ‘already large’ predators with a reduced risk of being eaten by other predators,” Shimada said.
Megs gave birth to huge newborn sharks
To determine how large the megungs were when they were born, Shimada’s group analyzed 6-inch-wide megalodon vortices from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.
Scientists can use vertebrae and teeth to estimate a creature’s body size. While the body proportions of megalodons are unknown, Shimada’s group used the ratio of vortices to the body of another lamniform, a great white shark, to estimate the size of the megalodon.
Based on this logic, the researchers determined that the fossils probably originated from a shark that was approx. 9 meters long.
A CT scan also showed that the vertebrae had 46 growth bands – each representing a year of life on a meg, like rings in a tree trunk. Shimada’s team pointed to the smallest of these bands, what he calls “a birth ring,” and calculated what size the shark would have been when the vertebrae were that size. Thus, the researchers concluded that this megalodon was 6.6 feet (2 meters) long at birth.
That makes it the largest live-born baby shark in history, Shimada said.
Currently, the world’s largest live born babies come from megamouth and basking sharks, both of which are lamiforme. These baby sharks reach lengths of 5.6 feet.