Is the Megalodon Shark Alive Today? The Answer is a Resounding NO!
This article is intended to give you the real science behind the megalodon extinction and why they are not alive today.
First, let's look at the origins of why many people
think megalodon is alive...
The Discovery Channel Fictional Shark Week Documentaries:
2013 "Megalodon - The Monster Shark Lives," the 2014 Shark Week; "Megalodon: The New Evidence," and
"Shark of Darkness: Wrath of Submarine"
I've seen a surge in people looking for megalodon information. This website has a very nice Megalodon
information page. It has everything you wanted to know about the giant megalodon, and it's cited with actual scientific journal articles.
Unfortunately people are not searching for megalodon facts, they are searching for "is megalodon alive," "whale bit by megalodon in hawaii," "megalodon
attack boat," etc... They are looking for the evidence presented on the popular discovery channel fake documentaries about megalodons. These fictional documentaries, meant to
mislead the public, include the 2013 "Megalodon - The Monster Shark Lives," the 2014 Shark Week sequel
"Megalodon: The New Evidence
the "Shark of Darkness: Wrath of Submarine
," "Voodoo Shark," and others.
What many unsuspecting people do not realize is the discovery channel megalodon shows are meant to misguide the public, they are completely fabricated.
They were used for entertainment purposes and to create a surge of ratings. Very quick disclaimers flash on the shows saying they are "dramatized".
The documentaries are meant to be a work of fiction. They make nice monster movies. However, since they are presented on a channel formerly known for science programming, many people think they are real. For the Shark Week Fake Documentaries, some of the fake evidence shown includes:
Kristine Stump from The Shedd Aquarium of Florida says something similar about the mokumentary "Monster Hammerhead." She said the producers wanted updates on hammerhead shark research, and the "Monster Hammerhead" film doesn't match what they filmed. This unethical interview practice that duped many scientists is downright dangerous to the scientific community.
Since these fictional documentaries, where science was removed and fiction was inserted, are fairly popular, many people now believe in bizarre shark tales, including the megalodon is still alive today. The answer to this question is a resounding NO. Megaldon went extinct around 2.6 million years ago. Here are the complete reasons why...
A Real Documentary
Although the Discovery documentaries on megalodons are entirely fictional, there is a real documentary about the megalodon that's much more accurate and educational.
It was produced by National Geographic. It's called
Prehistoric Predators: Monster Shark.
This movie is lesser known but MUCH more accurate. I highly recommend it if you are seeking the truth about Megalodon.
The Real Evidence of Megalodons Existence
So, what's the real evidence that megalodon is still alive? There is none. I'm not being biased here.
There is NO scientific evidence that
supports the existence of a living megalodon or monster "submarine" shark. Let's look at the confused evidence
used to support megalodon existence today:
Recent Reports of the "HUGE 9 foot Great White being eaten whole by an Unknown Super Predator"
This engraved image from the October 24th, 1896
edition of Harpery Weekly shows a creature washed ashore.
It is most likely a basking shark with artistic touches (nice legs!).
This work is public domain (PD-1923) in the U.S.
A research team in Australia tagging Great White sharks found one of their tracking devices washed up on shore 4 months after tagging it onto a Great White. When analyzing the
data in June, they found a temperature rise and a sudden 1,900 foot drop in depth. The only logical explanation was the shark was eaten by something, and the tracking device was in the
predators digestive track. This part is true. Unfortunately, headlines circling the internet are incredibly skewed. The mention a "Huge" 9 foot Great White, a "mystery sea monster", a new
"super predator", etc... People reading these misleading headlines and biased stories can easily come to the assumption that a giant Megalodon shark ate the Great White.
However, if one looks at the science, there is a much more clear and logical explanation. A larger Great White ate the Great White. The researchers even say this, unfortunately, most of the internet articles stop before mentioning this. The researchers say larger Great Whites moved into the area at that time, and that a 16 foot Great White could have easily eaten the smaller 9 foot great white (a 9 foot Great White is not "Huge" as many articles embellish).
So, what's more logical, an unknown super predator, such as a giant Megalodon eating small Great White sharks, or a larger Great White shark eating a smaller one? Yes, larger sharks do eat smaller sharks.
To learn about Great Whites, here is the Great White Shark Gallery.
Videos and pictures of giant dead sharks washing ashore, or seen swimming near a boats and/or people. These must be megalodons.
This amazing photo is of a Basking shark swimming near a beachgoer.
Basking sharks can easily be misidentified as a megalodon by people
with overactive imaginations. Image courtesy of candiche.
Yes, these videos and images do exist. Most of them appear real. The reason why is because there are large sharks, similar in size to what megalodon was, that exist today. 60 feet is stretching it for a maximum size of a megalodon.
They were probably closer to the 50 foot mark
(see the Megalodon Page for cited size information).
Other large sharks that reach simlar sizes exist today. Two of these sharks are the Whale shark and the Basking Shark.
Whale sharks can reach lengths of around 40 feet, which is similar to a Megalodon. However, they have a distinctive appearance. They have a wide and flat appearance. They are black with white spots on them. They look very distinctive, and are usually not confused with a "living" megalodon roaming the seas.
However, the other large shark, the basking shark, can and has been mistaken for giant prehistoric beasts. These GIANT, yet hermless, creatures can grow to almost the same size as a megalodon. A notable example is seen in the October 24, 1868 Harper's Weekly Newspaper, which shows a basking shark with an artistic marlin sail and legs!.
This is a photo of a Whale Shak from my Galapagos Dive Trip,
where I dove with schools of hammerhead sharks.
Whale sharks are Huge creatures, Whale Sharks are another
example of an shark approaching a similar size to the megalodon.
Basking sharks are endangered sharks that inhabit coastal waters and feed on plankton. These docile sharks are GIANT.
They can grow up to 40 feet, which is similar in size to an adult megalodon. On the rare occasion when these beautiful
creatures are spotted by beachgoers, they can easily be confused with a megalodon by someone with an overactive imagination.
Just because a GIANT shark is sighted, it doesn't mean it's a prehistoric megalodon, it could very well be one of these
amazing basking sharks.
If a megalodon body did wash ashore, or one was videotaped or photographed swimming around, it would make instant global news and not just news in the dark and deep conspiracy annals of youtube.
Recent megalodon teeth being found - aka New Caledonia teeth
This is a New Caledonian Megalodon tooth.
By valid dating methods, it is firmly
dated to be Miocene in age.
This is a popular piece of evidence used. However, there have NEVER been any recent megalodon teeth found. The most recent ones are
still over 1 million years old. The evidence of recent megalodon teeth being found started in the 1950's. Megalodon teeth were found
in the south pacific from dredging along deep slopes of a fringing reef around New Caledonia.
They were discovered in the late 50's by locals dredging the seafloor 1000 feet below. The enamel on many of these teeth are leeched such that a white color is left, making them slightly resemble a recent tooth. During the 1950's age dating was not as accurate as today. The type of age dating done was Manganese dioxide dating. The Manganese dioxide dating gave an age range of the sampled teeth to be between 11,000 and 24,000 years old. This means megalodon must have survived extinction.
This type of manganese dioxide dating is now considered invalid, due to the teeth being eroded out of their original formation and re-deposited. Today, modern dating methods indicate the teeth are eroded from a Miocene formation, which is between 23 and 5 million years old. Any source that uses the "evidence" that teeth pulled from the south pacific are 11,000 to 24,000 years old are purposely misleading the reader by using invalid and outdated evidence.
On a side note, these beautiful whitish fossil megalodon teeth use to be dredged from this area by the boatload. In 2003 the French pulled the permit for dredging in this area. Today these beautiful New Caledonian fossil megalodon teeth cannot be collected.
If a recent megalodon tooth was ever found, Paleontologists and marine Biologists would have a field day publishing new journal articles. These scientific and peer reviewed articles do not exist.
There is no scientific evidence of megalodon evolving into anything else. The evidence suggests it went extinct
approximately 1.6 million years ago with many of the whales during the end Pliocene extinction.
Let's start this one by looking at megalodon origins. Although the fossil record can be spotty and there are gaps, the fossil record for shark teeth in tertiary deposits is actually very plentiful, and nearly complete.
Scientists have a very nice evolutionary history of the megatooth sharks starting way back in the cretaceous with the shark Cretolamna appenticulata. As time goes on, there is a clear fossil record of slight changes in the shark teeth. The cusps gradually become smaller, and eventually disappear. The cutting edges become serrated, the crown gets broader, and the overall size of the teeth increases over time. Paleontologists assign each change of the megatooth shark into new species, and even genera, until the high mark is reached, the Carcharocles megalodon.
Yes, there is debate over exact species names, genera names, and when one morphological form is pronounced enough to be considered a new species. But everyone does agree, there is a nice evolutionary history of megalodon preserved in the fossil record. A general chronology of megatooth shark species, leading to megalodon is shown in the image below:
This is a VERY general evolution pattern of the megatooth shark lineage, ending with the apex predator Carcharocles
Megalodon. For a more indepth explination, go to either the Megalodon Facts Page, or the Megalodon Evolution Article.
The evolution of the megatooth shark into megalodon is clear. The extinction of megalodon also is
clear in the fossil record. Fossils of megalodon are plentiful, but at the Pliocene/Pleistocene contact,
fossils of megalodon vanish. The fossil record on megalodon cease. This doesn't mean there are
not marine Pleistocene formations. There are, and they are plentiful. They contain an array of
marine fauna, including many surviving sharks and the surviving whales (modern whales). They
just don't contain megalodon fossils anymore. There are no transitional fossils showing a
gradual change of megalodon into something else, there simply are no fossils of megalodon
or similar creatures. If megalodon changed into something else, there would be a clear
record in these Pleistocene formations. There is no record, they simply vanish. The only
valid conclusion is megalodon became extinct.
This is probably the most commonly used argument. That's because the statement is partially true.
The oceans are vast, a large predator can evade detection. Unfortunately, the statement contains a common
logical fallacy: Argument from Ignorance. This common logical fallacy states since we don't know or can never
prove whether a claim is true or false, it must be false or it must be true (depending on how you are arguing).
Scientists are always finding new deep sea animals. However, the evidence for megalodon is just not there. There could be space aliens under the sea, there could be unicorns, dragons, Elvis, Jimmy Hoffa all living in some underwater castle yet to be discovered. However, the evidence for these are also just not there.
If we cannot 100% prove or disprove a statement, we need to weigh the scientific evidence. Megalodon is just not any oceanic creature. It was THE top apex predator of the oceans. The evidence is just not there for a large undetected apex predator ruling the oceans. I'm sure there are plenty of other undetected animals, including new species of sharks roaming the oceans, but none of them are going to be a top apex predator, like the megalodon.
Let's look at some of the reasons why:
- If megalodons were alive today, we would be seeing them, ALL THE TIME.
Although unusual, it was a warm water animal. Fossils are only found in ancient warm water oceans and seas,
not near the poles. They used nursing grounds that were near shore, the East Atlantic Coastal Plain and Florida
were two such nursing grounds. Juveniles would live and grow there.
They ate cetacea (whales), and lots of them.
They were common. Megalodon fossils are found nearly globally in all warm and temperate waters of the Miocene and Paleocene. These were not rare animals, their fossils become relatively abundant during the Miocene and Pliocene, more so than the Great White sharks.
If megalodons still exist in their forms today, we would be seeing them ALL THE TIME. These top apex predators would be spotted eating whales on whale watching tours, greenpeace would see them, they would be spotted nearshore along warm coastlines. Carcasses would be washing ashore from time to time (like the basking sharks). They would not be hiding in the deep, cold, dark depths of the sea. These animals were in no way designed for that.
- Megalodon was THE top apex predator of the oceans. The modern ecology of the oceans cannot support such an apex predator today.
A major event occurred toward the end of the Paleocene, the Isthmus of Panama rose, creating a land bridge between North
and South America. This completely shut down the tropical currents connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Remember,
megalodon fossils are only found from warm waters. This basically stopped the radiation of megalodon. It could no longer
swim from ocean to ocean. Megalodon populations became isolated in "islands of warm water".
The Paleocene showed other dramatic changes. Global temperatures cooled, Ice Age cycles were triggered. Water was locked up in the poles, causing a dramatic drop in global sea levels. Megalodons nursing areas were now above sea level.
All of these events caused a major disruption in marine fauna, especially megafauna, like whales and sharks. Whale diversity (megalodons main food source) shrank. Many whale genera became extinct, including the cetotherids that were a main food source. Many of the whales that survived adapted and started migrating into cooler, more nutrient rich waters where megalodon could not go. Megalodon, being a warm water animal, and could not follow these whales. Other whales adapted into large killing apex predators that hunted in pods, such as the Orcas. Juvenile megalodons would have made for tasty Orca snacks.
Just by looking at the ecological changes above spells disaster for a top apex predator. When an ecosystem collapses, the first animals to go are the ones on the top of the food chain. Today, the limited warm ocean waters are not nutrient rich enough to support a large apex predator. There simply are not enough cetacea to support a large apex predator. There are no more nursing grounds left for this top apex predator.
Summing this all up, it's habitat is gone, it's food source is extinct, and there are now other apex predators in the oceans. There is simply no room, ecologically speaking, for a megalodon to exist.
So, to sum everything up... Megalodon is NOT alive today, it went extinct around 2.6 million years ago.
Go to the Megalodon Shark Page to learn the real facts about the largest shark to ever live, including the actual facts about it's extinction.
The following book: Megalodon: Hunting the Hunter is an impressive book about megalodons. This informative book is easy to understand, filled with interesting facts and has many high quality images. It's a must for any "Meg" fan!
The National Geographic DVD:
Prehistoric Predators: Monster Shark
is the only Video I've found that actually has real facts about the Megalodon. It is not one of those garabage "mocumentaries" of recent.
National Geographic does a great job at presenting everything about the Megalodon, including it's paleoecology, extinction, and relationship to the Great White.
If you are looking for a real megalodon documentary, this is it.
These are Authentic Megalodon teeth sold by Fossil Era , a very reputable fossil dealer (that I personally know) who turned his fossil passion into a business. These Megalodon teeth come in all sizes and prices, from small and inexpensive 2 and 3" teeth to muesum quality 6+" teeth. Each tooth has a detailed descriptions and images that include its collecting location and formation. If you are looking for a megalodon tooth, browse through these selections!