In 2023’s blockbuster Meg 2: The Trench, a team of scientists led by Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) goes into a deep-dive into the Mariana Trench. A high-stakes battle with an illegal mining operation deep under the ocean soon ensues — and that’s before they run into gigantic prehistoric sharks.
But is the screen meg merely a figment of Hollywood imagination, or did it actually exist? Buckle up for a deep dive into the history of the megalodon, the biggest shark the oceans have ever seen.
Enter the Megalodon
Millennia before The Meg or Jaws took over the big screen, the megalodon was roaming the deep blue. With a name that means “giant tooth,” it’s no surprise that the megalodon makes modern sharks look a little shrimpy.
The sea giant clocked in at a whopping 60 feet long — though some scientists estimate that it could’ve been closer to 80 feet — and weighed around 50 tons. That’s about the size of a bowling alley!
How Big Are Megalodon Teeth?
What’s more impressive than a shark the size of a bus? A shark the size of a bus with 7-inch teeth! That’s almost three times the size of the tooth of a modern shark and double the size of the palm of your hand.
The megalodon’s teeth were built perfect for a menu that mainly consisted of whales. Couple that with megalodon’s massive jaws — 9 by 11 feet wide, — for a truly extreme bite.
Experts believe the bite of a megalodon had a force of 40,000 pounds per square inch. A saltwater crocodile has the strongest bite of any modern animal, and that measures to “just” 3,700 pounds per square inch. Us humans? We can barely reach 200 pounds of bite force!
Megalodon vs. T. rex: Who Would Win?
At a massive 40 feet in length, the T. rex was one the largest carnivores to ever roam the Earth. In the water, however, the megalodon was king.
The megalodon and the T. rex did not live at the same time, so a battle between the two giants could have never happened. The megalodon roamed the oceans during the Miocene and Pliocene eras 23 to 3.6 million years ago, long after the T. rex disappeared during the late Cretaceous period around 66 million years ago.
But if we were to dream of an epic battle, the megalodon’s sheer size and biting power could have given it an edge. While the T. rex bite packed a powerful 12,700 pounds of force (the strongest of any animal to ever roam the Earth’s surface), the megalodon’s bite (at 40,000 pounds of force) was just impossible to match.
What Happened to the Megalodon?
The last megalodons are believed to have died about 3.6 million years ago — and scientists aren’t exactly sure why. With no natural predators or humans to hunt it, the megalodon likely met its demise due to the cooling of the planet.
According to the Natural History Museum in London, “up to a third of all large marine animals, including 43% of turtles and 35% of sea birds,” died off as the oceans cooled down. This affected the entire food chain and would have left the megalodon without much to eat.
As ice took over the planet, areas close to shore also froze and sea levels dropped, leaving the megalodon with no place to safely nurse its pups — and proving Mother Nature is mightier than even the largest beasts.
Where Can I See a Megalodon Shark Today?
While you should feel lucky that you never have to encounter a live megalodon, you can see how you measure up to the prehistoric behemoth at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! locations around the world.
Our Jaws-dropping collection includes dozens of real megalodon teeth, as well as a few full-size replicas of megalodon jaws!
By Diana Bocco, contributor for Ripleys.com