Popular Science

A HISTORY OF THE MEGALODON

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Otodus megalodon evolves from an ancestral group of megatooth sharks—the last member of a line that began 60 million years ago.

The shark spreads to coastal waters worldwide. Clusters of baby teeth near Panama suggest nurseries were close to shore.

Great white sharks evolve, and likely compete with the massive Meg to eat the same marine mammals, such as whales.

Otodus megalodon seemingly goes extinct around a time of upheaval, including cooling seas and a dip in the species it munched on.

Pliny the Elder notes that large “tongue stones” found in the rock strata of Europe may fall from the heavens during lunar eclipses.

Danish scientist Nicolas Steno dissects the head of a shark found off the coast of Italy and speculates that “tongue stones” are teeth.

Swiss naturalist Louis Agassiz coins the name Carcharodo­n megalodon in describing a set of the creature’s giant chompers.

The HMS Challenger dredges up megalodon teeth from the deep sea near Tahiti, fueling speculatio­n about the shark’s survival.

Researcher­s build a model of a Meg jaw that fits six standing adults— suggesting an 80-foot body. This is now considered oversize. Fishers in Australia claim to see a massive shark eat multiple lobster pots. The legend eventually makes its way into megalodon lore. Peter Benchley publishes Jaws, which plays with the idea that a prehistori­c maneater might lurk in the deep. The public is hooked. After decades of debate on the specifics of Meg’s family tree, the giant shark gets the new scientific name Otodus megalodon.

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