The megalodon is believed to be the largest shark that ever roamed the Earth’s waters. The now-extinct marine predator is known for having teeth that were as big as a human hand. Researchers have so far relied on fossils of the megalodon to enhance their knowledge on the creature. However, an entire fossil of a megalodon has not yet been discovered. To plug the gap, researchers have now created a 3D computer model of the megalodon shark using a well-preserved specimen. With this, they concluded that the shark could devour a killer whale-sized prey and then could survive without eating for two months.
For the modeling, a team of researchers in collaboration with the University of Zurich (UZH) used the specimen of an individual megalodon which was discovered back in the 1860s. A sizeable portion of the megalodon’s vertebral column was found in the fossil after it died in Belgium’s Miocene oceans around 18 million years ago.
“Shark teeth are common fossils because of their hard composition which allows them to remain well preserved. However, their skeletons are made of cartilage, so they rarely fossilize,” said Jack Cooper, PhD student at Swansea University. Cooper is the first author of the study published in Science Advances.
The team first scanned and measured every single vertebra of the megalodon before reconstructing its entire column. The column was then attached to a 3D scan of a megalodon’s definition from the United States. Following this, the megalodon model was completed after adding flesh around the skeleton using 3D scan of the body of a great white shark.
“Weight is one of the most important traits of any animal. For extinct animals we can estimate the body mass with modern 3D digital modelling methods and then establish the relationship between mass and other biological properties such as speed and energy usage,” said co-author John Hutchinson, professor at the Royal Veterinary College in the UK.
The 3D reconstruction of the megalodon revealed that it weighed more than 61 tonnes and had length of 16 metres. The team estimated that the massive creature could swim through the seas at a speed of 1.4 metres per second and needed over 98,000 kilo calories every day to meet its energy requirements. With its size, the shark had a stomach volume of 10,000 litres and was capable of eating a whole prey up to eight metres long. The findings also suggest that the megalodon could travel thousands of miles across oceans without having to eat anything once it gulps down its large prey.
The team believes that the complete model of the megalodon’s body can be used in future reconstructions and further research on the creature.