Nearly every kid goes through a period when he or she becomes fascinated by enormous prehistoric creatures. Prehistoric sea creatures don't get much more enormous than the megalodon. This gigantic shark makes the great white shark of contemporary times almost look like a minnow by comparison.
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The megalodon was not just a huge fish; it is believed to be the biggest carnivorous fish that has ever lived beneath the surface of Earth's water. As a manner of comparison, the shark in the film "Jaws" was estimated to be 7.5 m (25 feet) long, whereas megalodon could grow twice that length. A megalodon may have weighed as much as 63.5 tonnes (70 tons).
The jaws of megalodon were equal to the overall size of the shark. Today's tallest NBA players could walk through the open jaws of a megalodon without even having to stoop or bend their heads. Of course, few people would want to walk through those jaws since they were equipped with equally large and very sharp teeth, some as long as 17.5 cm (7 inches).
Megalodon existed from the Miocene epoch to the Pleistocene epoch. That means they lived from roughly 17 million years ago until they went extinct roughly 1.5 million years ago. However, there is some debate over exactly when extinction occurred, so this time frame may be adjusted in the future.
As the largest carnivore in the water, megalodon probably had its choice of food. The shark was large enough to eat a whale, and it is very likely that whales were part of its diet. In addition, its diet probably also included dolphins, seals, sea lions and even other sharks.
Because the earth and its waters were much warmer during the period in which the megalodon lived, this enormous shark was able to thrive nearly everywhere. However, it is believed that much warmer coastal areas were preferred for breeding.
Debate continues over whether the great white shark of today should be considered a direct ancestor of megalodon. While some scientists insist on this side of the argument, other scientists proposed that both sharks are simply different branches from the same tree, like apes and humans.