Of all the living fish in the sea, we know the whale shark to be the biggest. At up to eight or nine meters (roughly 28 feet), they eclipse all the other sharks alive in the ocean — and. But it certainly wasn’t always the case, as scientists have finally confirmed.
Published in Historical Biology, a study has confirmed that the now-extinct Otodus megalodon, or megatooth shark, once reached up to 15 meters (49 feet) in length — surpassing the present-day whale shark by almost seven meters (22 feet).
Generally portrayed as a gigantic monster of a shark in films like 2018’s The Meg, the real megalodon was a far cry from the 75 foot beast that makes cinema-goers shriek. But even if the length wasn’t quite what the movies make it out to be, the Meg certainly was the biggest fish in the sea for a while.
The study proved the shark’s length by using measurements taken from present-day lamniforms (the shark group to which the megalodon belonged) to estimate the body length of extinct forms, all through evaluating their teeth. It also showed that the megalodon’s size was an outlier, doubling the general limit of smaller lamniforms.
Kenshu Shimada, a paleobiologist at DePaul University in Chicago and lead author of the study, said in a press release, “Lamniform sharks have represented major carnivores in oceans since the age of dinosaurs, so it is reasonable to assert that they must have played an important role in shaping the marine ecosystems we know today.”
Co-authors and professors of environmental science at William Paterson University Michael Griffiths and Martin Becker said “This is compelling evidence for the truly exceptional size of megalodon,” and “This work represents a critical advancement in our understanding of the evolution of this ocean giant,” respectively.
But while the size sounds intimidating and the idea of a gigantic megatooth shark roaming the ocean might have some quaking in their flippers, rest assured that outside of Hollywood you’ve got nothing to fear from the now-extinct predator.