Here at High Touch High Tech, we get to do a lot of science with a lot of amazing young scientists. We love feeding young scientists’ curiosity about this amazing world we live in! Although our programs are jam packed with experiments, we make time to let our young scientists ask us whatever questions they’ve always wanted to ask about science.
In the coming weeks, we will be sharing a special series of articles answering some of the most frequent questions that come up from our young partners in science. First up is:
COULD MEGALODON STILL BE ALIVE IN THE DEEP SEA?
This most excellent question is on the minds of shark fans all over the world! Why? Because, clocking in at almost 60 feet, the mighty Megalodon was the largest shark that ever lived! There are several species of big, scary sharks today to capture your attention, but Megalodon was the undisputed BIGGEST and SCARIEST of all. We know about Megalodon because its huge teeth are still found all over the world, and we know that teeth that big were designed to eat WHALES. That’s right – imagine an enormous shark big enough to take a lethal bite out of a whale and you’ve got Megalodon.
Thankfully, no Megalodon is going to come up and swallow you whole while you are enjoying a nice day in the ocean, as depicted in the recent movie, The Meg. Megalodon IS extinct, disappearing from the fossil record about 2.6 million years ago, at the end of the Pleistocene age. Although our oceans are enormous and there are definitely huge sharks living even in very deep parts of the oceans, a shark as big as Megalodon could not survive in the deep ocean for many reasons, most especially: FOOD!
Not getting enough food was one of the reasons Megalodon died out in the first place. A shark that big requires lots and lots of food to function and maintain its huge body. Scientists think it needed the equivalent of a couple of cows every day to survive! When Megalodon died out about 2.6 million years ago, paleontologists believe it had to do with the fact that its main food source, whales, were also diminishing. As whale populations diminished, not only did the Meg lose food, it also had to deal with another competitor in the oceans – the GREAT WHITE SHARK. Great White Sharks emerged around the same time as Megalodon was dying out, and the new Great Whites were strong but small. Great Whites could attack the same prey as the Megalodon, but required a lot less food to survive.
But could a couple of rogue Megs have escaped to survive deep in the ocean? The deep ocean is big, and there is a surprising amount of life way down there, even a few gigantic, non-megalodon sharks. However, a big dude like the Meg would have some serious problems living there. Food is very hard to find because the deep sea is almost totally dark. No light means no plankton, no plankton means no other food. Most animals that live in the deep sea are scavengers that eat scraps fallen from the upper ocean, and they are adapted to be able to go long, long times between meals. A huge shark like the Megalodon needs a huge amount of food, and that just isn’t available in the deep sea.
There is also the crushing pressure of all that water. Living under high pressure would cause a lot of problems for a big toothy creature like Megalodon. Such high pressure actually dissolves things like teeth and bones, which is why the deepest known fish, such as the Mariana Snailfish, have skeletons of cartilage. Deep sea animals also have special molecules in their bodies called piezolytes, which help keep their bodies strong and intact under all that pressure. PLUS, the deep sea is so cold and dark, just to live there would require the Meg to become bioluminescent and expand its eyes to a much bigger size.
All in all, those are just too many challenges for a huge shark designed to expend lots of energy eating whales. So science friends, the Megalodon is definitely extinct. BUT, there are some incredible, huge, well-adapted deep sea sharks that do exist that are also really, really cool. We’ve included some links to videos below so you can see what’s REALLY in the deep sea.
Sources and Further Information:
Incredible Real Deep Sea Shark Videos:
More about the Megalodon: