The prehistoric struggle for food may have meant the extinction of the megalodon shark, the largest shark that ever lived on the planet.
A study of the fossil teeth of this giant oceanic indicates that it needed to compete for food with another fierce predator, the great white shark. The battle to reduce the number of whales and other prey may have driven megalodon to extinction three million years ago.
But environmental pressures, such as sea level change, have also played a role.
The extinction of the megalodon is an ancient mystery. A number of different factors have been suggested, from habitat loss due to changing sea levels to declining prey numbers.
The teeth of megalodon (left) and the great white shark (right) – Image: Getty Images via BBC
In the latest study, international researchers used zinc isotopes in the teeth of live and extinct sharks as a tool for understanding the nutrition of long-dead animals.
Traces of substances in the teeth of live sharks and in 13 fossils of megalodon teeth suggest that the great white and megalodon once occupied similar positions in the food chain and may have competed for the same food, including whales, dolphins and porpoises. This may be a factor in the megalodon’s extinction, as well as climate change and other environmental factors, according to the scientists.
“This is part of the jigsaw puzzle of evidence that there was competition between the modern great white and megalodon for aquatic food resources in the oceans when the two were still alive,” said Thomas Totkin, a professor at Johannes Gutenberg University in Cairo. Mainz, Germany, who led the study.
The number of great white sharks is decreasing – Photo: Getty Images via BBC
Commenting on the research, which was published in Nature Communications, Catalina Pimento of Swansea University in Wales said more work is needed to solve the mystery of what happened to megalodon. According to her, extinction has been studied from many different angles over the past decade and studies point to several factors.
“It remains a mystery what megalodon ate and how well it competed with other sharks,” says Pimento.
How big was megalodon?
megalodon (Autodes Megalodon) a huge toothed shark that roamed the oceans from 3 to 22 million years ago. Its name means “big teeth”.
The white shark is three times the size of the great white, can reach 18 meters in length and weigh up to 60 tons.
Megalodon made news recently when a six-year-old boy stumbled upon the tooth of a shark belonging to a giant prehistoric megalodon in Suffolk, eastern England. Sammy Shelton found a 10-cm tooth on Bawdsey Beach in Suffolk during a long vacation.
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