It is often said that we know more about the vast expanses of the Milky Way galaxy than we do about the depths of our own oceans. What lurks at the extremes of the seas can only be imagined. Well, we just found a fun little story about a beachcomber who stumbled upon the find of the century, and you are not going to believe what happens next.
Denny Bland was strolling along a beach on the coast of North Carolina recently when he something half buried in the sand near the water’s edge. When he got closer, he was astonished to discover that he had found a massive shark tooth.
He says “I felt like I was a lottery winner or something. It’s like I’m the first one to touch that since it fell out of his mouth back in the day.”
How big was this tooth? It was literally the size of Bland’s hand. The massive object was more than six inches long.
While that paints a pretty terrifying picture of the beast that shed it, fear not!
Bland had the tooth examined and it turned out to be a fossilized tooth from a species of shark that roamed the depths more than twenty five million years ago.
This shark, known as a megalodon shark has been extinct for more than two million years. These sharks would have grown to fifty nine feet in length, which is huge. If you consider that the largest great white sharks only grow to be around eighteen to twenty feet long, this animal would have dwarfed their descendants.
Megalodon teeth and jaw bone are all that remain today of these mammoth eating machines. Sharks have cartilaginous skeletons which are not typically strong enough to survive the fossilization process.
Collectors and researchers regularly purchase these teeth, which turn out to be more common than you’d expect. The current market value of a good megalodon specimen is almost nine hundred dollars. Not bad for a piece of dead animal picked up on the beach, right?
Interestingly, the megalodon shark tooth is the state fossil of North Carolina. BLand found his while on a visit to North Topsail Beach.
Marine biologists classify the megalodon as a superpredator who would feed on sperm whales, bowhead whales, dolphins, manatees, and giant sea turtles. Their range was global but they preferred tropical waters and would feed in shallower areas than modern great whites. Megalodon also would hunt solo instead of in packs. Because of their apex predator status, they probably had a significant influence on the wildlife in areas where they hunted. It is possible that some whale and dolphin species began to work in packs to protect themselves from these horrific behemoths.
It is believed that the modern great white is their closest ancestor. While the exact cause for their extinction remains a matter of speculation, some suggested causes include oceanic temperature cooling and a drop in the sea level, a decline in food, and competitive pressures from more advanced species of sharks.
Have you ever found a shark tooth on the beach or worked on an archaeological dig? Why do you think megalodon went extinct? Please share your thoughts and stories with us here.