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A megalodon that swam in the oceans up to 11 million years ago had a cracked tooth that may have been caused by chewing on a spiny fish, a study says.
Researchers conducted an analysis of a megalodon tooth found in the Atlantic Ocean, off the eastern coast of the US.
It is thought that a puncture wound to the gum caused the splitting or ‘doubling’ of one tooth in two.
The injury was most likely caused by chewing on a spiny fish or poking by a pointed stingray, researchers think.
The megalodon was an apex predator the size of a school bus that ruled the seas between 20 million and 3.7 million years ago. This artistic reconstruction shows the monster that fed on an ancient swordfish about 11 to 3.7 million years ago. Such a puncture of the dental gum may have caused doubling of the developing tooth buds
THE MEG: THE BIGGEST SHARK EVER LIVED
O. megalodon was not only the largest shark in the world, but also one of the largest fish that ever existed.
Estimates suggest it grew between 49 and 59 feet (15 and 18 meters) long, three times longer than the largest recorded great white shark.
Without a full megalodon skeleton, these numbers are based on the size of the animal’s teeth, which can reach 7 inches in length.
Most reconstructions show that megalodon looks like a huge great white shark, but this is now believed to be incorrect.
The study was conducted by researchers from North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.
“With O. megalodon in particular, the current understanding is that they primarily fed on whales,” said Haviv Avrahami, a NC State doctoral student and co-author of the paper.
“But we know that tooth deformities in modern sharks can be caused by something sharp piercing the conveyor belt of developing teeth in the mouth.
“Based on what we see in modern sharks, the injury most likely was caused by chewing on a spiny fish or taking a vicious sting from a stingray.”
This megalodon, in particular, “had a bad day,” said study co-author Lindsay Zanno, chief of paleontology at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
“When we think of predator-prey encounters, we tend to maintain our sympathy for the prey,” she said.
“But the life of a predator, even a giant megatooth shark, was no easy feat either.”
The megalodon (officially called Otodus megalodon) was an apex predator the size of a school bus that ruled the seas between 20 million and 3.7 million years ago.
It is often portrayed as a giant, monstrous shark in novels and movies, such as the 2018 sci-fi thriller “The Meg.”
While there is no doubt that it existed or was gigantic, the megalodon is known only from ancient fossilized teeth and vertebrae.
Based on this evidence, studies suggest that they reached a length of at least 15 meters and as much as 20 meters, which is equivalent to a 10-pin bowling alley.
The misshapen tooth of O. megalodon (right) and a normal bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) tooth (left)
3D rendering of what the megalodon may have looked like. The species is known only from teeth and vertebrae in the fossil record, although it is scientifically widely believed that the species was gigantic, growing to at least 50 feet (15 meters) and possibly as much as 20 meters (20 feet).
MEGALODONS WERE BROKEN TO EXTERMINATION BY GREAT WHITE SHARKS
It is already known that the megalodon was extinct by the end of the Pliocene (2.6 million years ago).
Now, a study claims the beast was driven to extinction by great white sharks, which rivaled them for food despite being three times smaller.
Dental analysis suggested the two species likely competed for the same food sources, including marine mammals.
The researchers studied a deformed four-inch megalodon tooth, designated “NCSM 33639,” which is currently housed in the paleontological collections of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
The tooth was collected in the North Atlantic Ocean 45 miles off the coast of Wrightsville Beach, New Hanover County, North Carolina.
It was notable for an abnormality described as ‘double tooth pathology’ as it appears to be ‘cleft’.
According to the researchers, there are several possible causes for such a deviation.
During tooth development, two tooth buds can fuse into one, or one tooth bud can split in two (a process called doubling).
Doubling and fusion can be caused by disease, genetics, or physical injury to the tooth bud.
The researchers also examined two more abnormal teeth from the bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas), a much smaller shark species that lived during the same period and still roams the seas today.
All three oddly shaped teeth showed some form of double tooth pathology.
The researchers compared the teeth to normal teeth from both species and performed nano-CT imaging of the misshapen teeth so they could examine what was happening inside.
During tooth development, two tooth buds can fuse into one, or one tooth bud can split in two (a process called doubling, right)
The researchers also examined two more abnormal teeth from the bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas, photo)
Deformed teeth have been found to have more internal channels than normal teeth, confirming that two teeth are incompletely split or fused during development.
While the researchers were unable to definitively determine a developmental cause, they believe a diet-related injury was the most likely cause.
It’s possible the megalodon had a crack in swallowing the spiny fish or stingray, which, if true, suggests it had a more varied diet than previously thought.
“The presence of double tooth pathologies in O. megalodon raises the question of whether the diet of this species (which is believed to consist mainly of marine mammals and possibly turtles and fish) was broader than is now believed,” the authors say.
“Additional research would be needed to link specific prey items to the frequency of dental pathologies in sharks before reliable nutritional conclusions can be made.”
Overall, the results could provide more insight into the developmental processes associated with tooth injury in ancient sharks, as well as feeding behavior.
The study is published in the journal pearJ†
SCIENTISTS ADMIT WE STILL HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE MEGALODON REALLY LOOKS LIKE
For more than a century, scientists have been trying to decipher the appearance of the megalodon, the largest shark that ever lived.
Now scientists admit they still have no idea what the legendary creature really looked like when it swam the seas about 15 to 3.6 million years ago.
In a new study, experts say all previously proposed body shapes of the giant megalodon remain “in the realm of speculation.”
Reconstruction of a full-size megalodon and teeth at the Museo de la Evolución de Puebla in Mexico
“The cartilage in shark bodies is not well preserved, so there are currently no scientific resources to support or refute previous studies on O. megalodon body shapes,” said lead author Phillip Sternes of the University of California, Riverside.
But academics are hopeful that one day a complete megalodon skeleton—what they call the “ultimate treasure”—will be found that could conclusively reveal what it looked like.
“The fact that we still don’t know exactly what O. megalodon looked like keeps our imaginations going,” said study co-author Kenshu Shimada of DePaul University in Chicago.
Read more: Scientists still have no idea what the megalodon really looked like