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Megalodon was, by an order of magnitude, the largest prehistoric shark that ever lived. As shown by the pictures and illustrations below, this undersea predator was ravenous and deadly, perhaps even the deadliest creature in the ocean. Fossils uncovered by paleontologists give a sense of the shark's massive size and strength.
Humans Never Lived at the Same Time as Megalodon
RICHARD BIZLEY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty Images
Because sharks are constantly shedding their teeth-thousands and thousands over the course of a lifetime-megalodon teeth have been discovered all over the world. This has been the case from antiquity (Pliny the Elder thought that the teeth fell from the sky during lunar eclipses) to modern times.
Contrary to popular belief, the prehistoric shark megalodon never lived at the same time as humans, though cryptozoologists insist that some enormous individuals still prowl the world's oceans.
Megalodon Was Bigger Than the Great White
Jeff Rotman/Getty Images
As you can see from this comparison of the teeth of the great white shark and the jaws of the megalodon, there's no disputing which was the bigger (and more dangerous) shark.
Megalodon Was Five Times Stronger Than the Great White
Stocktrek Images/Getty Images
A modern great white shark bites with about 1.8 tons of force, while the megalodon chomped down with a force between 10.8 and 18.2 tons-enough to crush the skull of a giant prehistoric whale as easily as a grape.
Megalodon Was Over 50 Feet Long
Mark Stevenson/Stocktrek Images/Getty Images
The exact size of the megalodon is a matter of debate. Paleontologists have produced estimates ranging from 40 to 100 feet, but the consensus now is that adults were 55 to 60 feet long and weighed as much as 50 to 75 tons.
Whales and Dolphins Were Food for the Megalodon
De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images
Megalodon had a diet befitting an apex predator. The monster shark feasted on the prehistoric whales that swam the earth's oceans during the Pliocene and Miocene epochs, along with dolphins, squids, fish, and even giant turtles.
Megalodon Was Too Large to Swim Close to Shore
Corey Ford/Stocktrek Images/Getty Images
As far as paleontologists can tell, the only thing that kept adult megalodons from venturing too close to shore was their enormous size, which would have beached them as helplessly as a Spanish galleon.
Megalodon Had Enormous Teeth
Jonathan Bird/Getty Images
The teeth of the megalodon were over half a foot long, serrated, and roughly heart-shaped. By comparison, the biggest teeth of the biggest great white sharks are only about three inches long.
Only Blue Whales Are Bigger Than the Megalodon
The only marine animal ever to outclass the megalodon in size is the modern blue whale, individuals of which have been known to weigh well over 100 tons-and the prehistoric whale Leviathan also gave this shark a run for its money.
Megalodon Lived All Over the World
Misslelauncherexpert, Matt Martyniuk/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 4.0
Unlike some other marine predators from prehistoric times-which were restricted to coastlines or inland rivers and lakes-the megalodon had a truly global distribution, terrorizing its prey in warm-water oceans all over the world.
Megalodon Could Tear Through Cartilage
Mary Parrish, Smithsonian, National Museum of Natural History/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Great white sharks dive straight toward their prey's soft tissue (an exposed underbelly, say), but the megalodon's teeth were suited to biting through tough cartilage. There's some evidence that it may have sheared off its victim's fins before lunging in for the final kill.
Megalodon Died Out Before the Last Ice Age
Reconstruction by Bashford Dean in 1909, enhanced photo/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Millions of years ago, the megalodon was doomed by global cooling (which ultimately led to the last Ice Age), and/or by the gradual disappearance of the giant whales that constituted the bulk of its diet.