World’s biggest shark was wiped out during a global extinction of ocean’s megafauna
The biggest shark to have ever lived was wiped out during a previously unknown global extinction event that saw 36 percent of the world’s marine megafauna disappear.
Carcharocles megalodon could reach up to 60 feet in length and had jaws measuring 9 feet wide. It lived from 23 million years ago up until the end of the Pliocene Epoch, around 2.6 million years ago. What caused its extinction has been the matter of debate for many years — shifting environmental conditions, a decline in prey and the emergence of new marine predators all appear to have played a role.
However, in a study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, scientists found the demise of the megalodon was part of a larger extinction event that affected huge swaths of marine life during the Pliocene (5.3 million to 2.6 million years ago).
The end of the Pliocene saw huge changes to the world’s climate. Global temperatures and sea levels fell dramatically, leading to widespread changes to Earth’s flora and fauna. In the ocean, many individual species were known to have gone extinct as others began to emerge. But to what extent this was happening was not known.
Scientists led by Catalina Pimiento from Switzerland’s University of Zurich, carried out a meta-analysis in which they gathered all of the published fossil records from this period.
The previously unknown extinction event included marine mammals, seabirds, turtles and sharks, with species being lost at a rate of around three times higher than during the Cenozoic Era — the geological period to which the Pliocene belongs.