Great Whites may have killed off Megalodon mega shark in savage battle for the oceans, says new research
The new discovery also suggests that the megalodon went extinct long before a suite of strange seals, walruses, sea cows, porpoises, dolphins and whales all disappeared.
Megalodon, the giant predatory shark, which has starred in our nightmares thanks to the many documentaries and fantasy movies, may have gone extinct at least one million years more than previously thought, and the great white sharks may have had something to do with it. According to a research paper published in PeerJ - the Journal of Life and Environmental Sciences - on February 13, the claims about the 50-foot-long, giant shark Otodus megalodon going extinct 2.6 million years ago may be incorrect.
The team of researchers led by paleontologist Robert Boessenecker with the College of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina reported every fossil occurrence of O. megalodon the rock record of California and Baja California (Mexico) in order to estimate the extinction of the widely mythologized creatures.
Boessenecker’s team also included Dana Ehret, of New Jersey State Museum; Douglas Long, of the California Academy of Sciences; Morgan Churchill, of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh; Evan Martin, of the San Diego Natural History Museum; and Sarah Boessenecker, of the University of Leicester, United Kingdom.
New paper! Giant shark O. megalodon went extinct 1 million years earlier than previously thought, based on revised data-extinct about 3.6 Mya, meaning that it was not killed off by a supernova and not part of marine vert extinction 2-2.5 Mya. Read here: https://t.co/81n0gZWvD3 pic.twitter.com/uhkELCm32c— Robert Boessenecker 🐳 (@CoastalPaleo) February 13, 2019
Their research led them to the realization that while genuine fossil occurrences of the O. megalodon were present until about 3.6 million years ago, while later fossils, which had poor data provenance, most likely owing to them coming from other fossil sites.
Bossenecker explains, "We used the same worldwide dataset as earlier researchers but thoroughly vetted every fossil occurrence, and found that most of the dates had several problems-fossils with dates too young or imprecise, fossils that have been misidentified, or old dates that have since been refined by improvements in geology; and we now know the specimens are much younger.”
He elaborates, "After making extensive adjustments to this worldwide sample and statistically re-analyzing the data, we found that the extinction of O. megalodon must have happened at least one million years earlier than previously determined.”
The new discovery also suggests that the megalodon went extinct long before a suite of strange seals, walruses, sea cows, porpoises, dolphins and whales all disappeared. According to Boessenecker, "The extinction of O. megalodon was previously thought to be related to this marine mass extinction-but in reality, we now know the two are not immediately related.”
These extinctions, in fact may have been the result of something called a faunal turnover, which is the process of species becoming extinct and new species taking their place. Some astronomical cataclysm like a supernova could have caused this faunal turnover at the time, paving way for new species like the great whites to find their place in the deep ocean. While they were smaller, the great whites were reportedly fiercer and fully capable of fully eradicating the O. megalodon from the sea.
Bossenecker says, "We propose that this short overlap (3.6 to 4 million years ago) was sufficient time for great white sharks to spread worldwide and outcompete O. megalodon throughout its range, driving it to extinction.”