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Palaeoartist reconstruction of a 16m adult Megalodon. Reconstruction by Oliver E. Demuth.

Palaeoartist reconstruction of a 16m adult Megalodon. Reconstruction by Oliver E. Demuth.


New research on the Body Dimensions of the megalodon shark


Summary Points

Megalodon jaws complete with fossil teeth with a Great White shark inside the jaws. This display is at the Buena Vista Museum of Natural History in Bakersfield, CA


The length of O. megalodon has been narrowed down over the last few years and is probably a maximum size no larger than 60 feet.

This new research determined the body shape and dimensions of the megalodon shark.

A large 52 foot adult would have a dorsal fin that was over 5 foot in height and a tail that was 12.6 feet tall.

They also determined megalodon was adapted for "swift predatory locomotion and long swimming periods."



New research on the Body Dimensions of the megalodon shark

This article is based on a Press Release from Swansea University - Sept. 3rd, 2020 and the research paper: (Cooper, J.A. et al., 2020).


Comparison of an adult Megalodon's dorsal fin to a 1.6m diver. Fin reconstruction by Oliver E. Demuth.

Comparison of an adult Megalodon's dorsal fin to a 1.6m diver. Fin reconstruction by Oliver E. Demuth.


Otodus Megalodon Body Dimenstions

Otodus megalodon (Carcharocles megalodon) is the largest predatory shark known to have existed. However, since only fossil teeth and the occasional vertebra are all that remain, it's been difficult to determine the exact size and shape of this giant shark.

The Body size estimates of megalodon has been studied numerous times over the past few years using associated dentitions of megalodon fossil teeth. The body size has been narrowed down to a maximum size of less than 60 feet for the largest of adults. For example, Pimiento and Balk 2015, gives a statistical maximum size of 17.9 meters, or 58.7 feet. In Shimada's 2019 paper, he more conservative and suggests anything over 15.2 m, or 50.2 feet, would be exceedingly rare. You can read more on how to find the size of the shark that your fossil tooth came from here. However, these researchers looked at the maximum length of a megalodon and not the actual body shape.

This new research by Cooper, J.A., Pimiento, C., Ferron, H.G., and Benton M.J. tackled the body shape question. The researchers did not want to base the shape of megalodon solely off of the great white, C. Carcharias, since it's not directly related to great whites. Instead they extrapolated megalodon body dimensions based on anatomical measurements of five ecologically similar lamniform sharks. Carchardon Carcharias, Isurus oxyrinchus, Isurus paucus, Lamna ditropis, and Lamna nasus. By combining measurements of these ecologically similar sharks, the researchers gained a more accurate understanding of the shape of megalodon sharks.

They used three sizes of megalodons for their extrapolations and here is what they found:

Large 16 m (52.5 ft) mature adult megalodon
4.65 m long head (15.3 ft)
1.62 m tall dorsal fin (5.3 ft)
3.85 m high tail (12.6 ft)

Juvenile 8 m (26.2 ft) megalodon
2.32 m long head (7.6 ft)
.81 m tall dorsal fin (2.7 ft)
1.92 m high tail (6.3 ft)

Newborn (neonate) 3 m (9.8 ft) megalodon
.87 m long head (2.9 ft)
.31 m tall dorsal fin (1.0 ft)
.72 m high tail (2.4 ft)

The diagram below illustrates the body dimensions:

Computational reconstruction of Megalodon's size and proportions at different life stages: a) 16m adult with 12 estimated body dimensions recorded; b) 3m new-born and c) 8m juvenile. By Oliver E. Demuth.

Computational reconstruction of Megalodon's size and proportions at different life stages: a) 16m adult with 12 estimated body dimensions recorded; b) 3m new-born and c) 8m juvenile. By Oliver E. Demuth.


A final conclusion they found by using morphometric analysis of their fin dimensions, is that megalodon was adapted for "swift predatory locomotion and long swimming periods."

The Full Journal Article is Available Free Here:

Cooper, J.A., Pimiento, C., Ferron, H.G., et al. Body dimensions of the extinct giant shark Otodus megalodon: a 2D reconstruction. Sci Rep 10, 14596 (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-71387-y.

Other References:

Pimiento, Catalina and Balk, Meghan A.. (2015) Body-size trends of the extinct giant shark Carcharocles megalodon: a deep-time perspective on marine apex predators. Paleobiology, 41, pp 479-490. DOI: 10.1017/pab.2015.16.

Shimada, K. (2019) The size of the megatooth shark, Otodus megalodon (Lamniformes: Otodontidae), revisited. Historical Biology, DOI: 10.1080/08912963.2019.1666840.



Recommended Book:


Megalodon: Hunting the Hunter (4th Ed.)
Mark Renz, 2018

This is a classic book for anyone who loves megalodon and megalodon shark teeth! Mark has a great writing style that brings this long dead creature to life!



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