The Megalodon has been sparking our imaginations for centuries.
It was given its name, “Carcharodon megalodon”, in 1843. Before then some scientists believed its fossilised teeth were the petrified tongues of dragons. Sadly, that wasn’t the case, they just belonged to one of the most terrifying creatures to ever stalk the sea.
After ruling the seas for a period of 20 million years, the Megalodon went extinct 2.5 million years ago. Some believe that the cooling of the oceans, combined with increased competition from whales, was to blame, but no one is 100 percent sure.
And that’s why the National Science Foundation has provided a team of scientists with $204,000. They’re hoping to help unravel precisely why the Megalodon no longer roams the seas,.
“There are many ideas about why the megalodon went extinct,” said Professor Sora Kim. She’s planning to lead the study.
“Scientists have argued that changes in the megalodon’s available prey base combined with climate change led to their demise. But these are just hypotheses. There have been no rigorous studies that demonstrate this conclusively.”
One of the major reasons for the mystery: sharks (including the Meg) don’t have bones, their skeletal structure is made up of cartilage, so they don’t leave behind fossils.
But the good news, their teeth do. And there are lots of them. The fact that sharks shed thousands of teeth in their lifetimes means that shark teeth are actually among the most common fossils. The plan is to study the Megalodon teeth in an attempt to figure out what they ate, what their environment was like and — ultimately — why they went extinct.
Professor Kim and her team plan to use isotope analysis to figure it all out.
“Isotope fingerprinting will provide more definitive answers to these questions,” she said.
It’s a three-year project, so hopefully in three years we’ll have more information on one of the most terrifying creature to ever exist on this planet.
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