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Temporal range: Oligocene – Pleistocene
|Model of the jaws of the megalodon at the American Museum of Natural History|
| Carcharodon megalodon|
This giant of a shark was a huge version of the current great white shark,Carcharodon carcharias. Megalodon had teeth, which are among the largest ever found, over 7 inches (18 cm) long. Nicolaus Steno was the first to recognise the teeth as those of a giant shark. The shark was up to 52 feet long (16 meters) and weigh over 60 tons.
The skeleton of a Megalodon was made of cartilage, but it was calcified: it had calcium to strengthen it. Megalodon teeth, however were bone and can be found in all oceans. Other remains found are vertebrae.
Fossil records of C. megalodon indicate that it occurred in subtropical to temperate latitudes. Before the formation of the Isthmus of Panama, the seas were relatively warmer. This would have made it possible for the species to live in all the oceans of the world.
C. megalodon lived in many marine environments (i.e. continental shelf waters, coastal upwelling, swampy coastal lagoons, sandy littorals, and offshore deep water environments), and moved from place to place. Adult C. megalodon were not abundant in shallow water environments, and mostly lurked offshore. C. megalodon may have moved between coastal and oceanic waters, at different stages in its life.
Megalodon hunted large and medium-sized whales, attacking the bony areas, such as chest or fins. This would stop the whale, or it could kill quickly with a fatal bite to the chest region. Megalodon could bite with the one of the strongest bites in the animal kingdom's history.
Fossil evidence is that C. megalodon preyed on cetaceans (i.e., dolphins, small whales, and Odobenocetops, and large whales, (including whales, bowhead whales, and rorquals pinnipeds, porpoises, sirenians, and giant sea turtles.
Marine mammals were regular prey targets for C. megalodon. Many whale bones have been found with clear signs of large bite marks (deep gashes) made by teeth that match those of C. megalodon, and various excavations have revealed C. megalodon teeth lying close to the chewed remains of whales, and sometimes in direct association with them. Fossil evidence of interactions between C. megalodon and pinnipeds also exist. In one interesting observation, a 127 millimetres (5.0 in) C. megalodon tooth was found lying very close to a bitten earbone of a sea lion.
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