10 Killer Megalodon Shark Facts

Megalodon Shark Facts

Fact #1. The Megalodon Shark Was The Largest Predator That Ever Lived.

Reaching lengths of up to 60-70 feet and an estimated maximum weight of over 60 tons, the Megalodon is the largest known predator in Earth’s history. The modern Sperm Whale is longer, but probably not as heavy as the Megalodon. To compare this size, the largest modern Great White sharks max out around 23 feet and 3 ½ tons. This makes the Megalodon nearly 3 times as long, and 20 times and heavy as the Great White Shark.

Megalodon size compared with a Whale Shark, modern Great White Shark and human.

The Megalodon’s massive size also dwarfs that of the large, extinct marine reptiles like the Mosasaurus, Tylosaurus and Liopleurodon on a weight basis.

Because shark skeletons are made of cartilage that doesn’t fossilized easily, scientists just have the teeth to go on when estimating maximum size. This has caused a wide range of maximum sizes to be proposed over the years, depending on the methodology used, but most scientifically accepted maximum sizes fall in the 50-60 foot range.

Fact #2. The Megalodon's Teeth Could Reach Sizes Over 7 Inches

While most adult Megalodon teeth fell into the 4-5” size range, a few massive, fossil teeth have been found in excess of 7” The largest verifiable Megalodon tooth is a 7.48” tooth found near Ocucaje, Peru. Compare that to the Great White shark whose teeth reached a maximum size of under 3 inches in the largest individuals. Reconstructions of the Megalodon’s jaw suggest they may have been up to 7 feet across.

Largest verifiable Megalodon tooth at 7.48" long. Photo credit Craig Sundell

Fact #3. The Megalodon Is NOT Closely Related To The Great White Shark

Contrary to popular belief, fossil evidence shows that the Megalodon is NOT in fact closely related to the Great White Shark. When the Megalodon was first described based on fossil teeth in 1843, it was put in the same genus as the Great White shark, Carcharodon . They both had big, serrated teeth and were the marine apex predators of their time. So they must be related, right? But, as our understanding of shark taxonomy has grown and new fossil discoveries have filled gaps in the fossil record, it’s become apparent this assumption was not correct and a new Carcharocles genus was created.

The Megalodon likely represented the end-point in a chronospecies, or a single evolutionary line that can be traced back nearly 60 million years to the Otodus shark. At the same time the research has shown that the Mako Shark and Great White Shark and closely related. Fossils show that they both likely evolved from the extinct Broad Tooth Mako (Isurus hastalis), branching off about 5 million years ago. So, while popular media often represents that the Megalodon and Great White are closely related, that statement doesn't match the fossil evidence or the consensus view among researchers.

  • More information of Megalodon evolution (FossilGuy.com)

  • Great whites 'not evolved from megashark' (BBC News)

  • Fact #4. The Megalodon Ate Whales For Breakfast

    This gigantic shark obviously required a massive amount of food and it’s been estimated an adult Megalodon may have had to consume over a ton of food per day to sustain itself. Fossil evidence points to the Megalodon preying on whales and other large marine mammals such as Sea Cows and Sea Lions.

    Many fossil whale bones have been found with clear signs of large, bite marks made by teeth matching the Megalodon’s Other excavations have found Megalodon teeth lying next to the chewed remains of whales.

    Reconstructed Megalodon jaw at the National Aquarium in Baltimore

    Fact #5. Teeth Are Relatively Common Fossils

    Surprising to some, fossil Megalodon teeth are relatively common fossils in many areas of the world. Like other sharks the Megalodon lost it’s teeth as it grew, they became worn or broken. Their teeth also were very solid and fossilized quite easily. While Megalodon teeth in general can be quite common, large or exceptionally well preserved specimens can be very rare, and can fetch big bucks from collectors. For example, 7” Megalodon teeth are so rare, the last one sold for nearly $50k, while small or broken teeth can be quite inexpensive.

    Colorful Bone Valley, Florida Megalodon Tooth

    Fact #6. The Megalodon Had A Cosmopolitan Or World-Wide Distribution

    Fossil teeth of the Megalodon have been found world wide from regions including North and South America, Europe, Africa, as well as Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica, the Canary Islands, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Malta, Grenadines and India. It appears to have lived anywhere the ocean was warm enough and food sources plentiful enough to sustain it.

    Fact #7. The Megalodon Went Extinct Around 2.6 Million Years Ago

    Unless you believe a bunch of CGI, made up “evidence” and actors masquerading as scientists on the Discovery channel the Megalodon shark extinct around 2.6 million years ago. During this time, the Earth underwent significant climate changes which would have but significant pressures on the Megalodon. The Oceans cooled and sea levels dropped, and many large marine mammals which the Megalodon relied on for food disappeared during this approximate time.

  • When Did Carcharocles megalodon Become Extinct? A New Analysis of the Fossil Record (PLOS ONE)

  • Fact #8. The Megalodon Had The Most Powerful Bite of Any Known Animal

    The Megalodon is believed to have had the most powerful bite of any animal, and it’s not even close. Computer models estimate the Megalodon’s bite force between 24,000 to 40,000 pounds (10,900 to 18,100 kilograms), This is 6-10 times that of the Great White shark and modern crocodiles, This is also 2-3 times that of the estimated bite force of 12,800 pounds for T-Rex and the large Mosasaurs. This enormous bite force could literally bite a small whale in half.

    Fact #9. Several Megalodon Nursery Areas Have Been Discovered

    The Megalodon gave birth to it’s young in shallow water environments. Several suspected nursery areas have been identified based on the high concentrations of small Megalodon teeth, many only about 1 ½ inches in length. These suspected nursery areas include the Bone Valley Region of Florida, the Calvert Cliffs in Maryland and the recently described nursery in the Gatum Formation of Panama.

    University of Florida vertebrate paleontology graduate student Dana Ehret holds a juvenile and adult Megalodon tooth up for comparison.

    Fact #10. The Megalodon Had About 276 Teeth In 5 Rows

    Like modern sharks, the Megalodon discarded it’s teeth frequently as they became worn. It likely have 5 rows of teeth, which acted like a conveyer belt, so that lost teeth could be replaced rapidly, likely within 24-48 hours. While tooth loss rates are poorly understood even in modern-day sharks, it’s likely that a Megalodon went through thousands of teeth during it’s lifetime. The vast majority of fossil Megalodon teeth that are collected show significant feeding wear to the tip, someones with the tips completely sheered off due to hitting bone or other teeth during feeding.

    Reconstructed Megalodon jaw showing rows of teeth that would act as replacements for damaged teeth.

    Click on a question to jump to the answer.

  • How big was the Megalodon shark?

  • What is the largest Megalodon shark tooth?

  • How strong was the Megalodon’s bite?

  • When did the Megalodon go extinct?

  • Is the Megalodon still alive?

  • But, could the Megalodon be living in the deep oceans?

  • Why did the Megalodon go extinct?

  • Why do fossil Megalodon teeth come in so many different colors?

  • How many teeth did the Megalodon have?

  • How often did the Megalodon replace it’s teeth?

  • Are Megalodon teeth common?

  • If the Megalodon was such as huge shark, why are there so many small teeth?

  • Where are Megalodon teeth found?

  • What did the Megalodon eat?

  • Was the Megalodon related to the Great White Shark?

  • Why aren’t there fossils of other parts of the Megalodon?

  • Is that Megalodon tooth stuck in a whale vertebra real?

  • How much are fossil Megalodon teeth worth?

  • Was the Megalodon related to the Great White Shark?

    Since a skeleton of the Megalodon has never been found its size can only be estimated by comparing the size of its teeth and rare fossil vertebrae to modern sharks. Most recent size estimates put its maximum length between 60-70 feet and maximum weight at around 60-70 tons. Compare this to the largest, modern-day Great White shark that was 23 feet long and weighed less than 4 tons.
    Size comparison between Megalodon, Whale Shark, Great White shark and human.

    What is the largest Megalodon shark tooth?

    There have only been a handful of unaltered Megalodon teeth found in excess of 7 inches in length, with the largest right around 7 ½ inches long. Complete teeth over 6 inches are considered very rare finds.

    To put this into context the largest modern day Great White shark teeth are around 3 inches long. Megalodon Tooth Size vs Body Size
    A megalodon tooth size comparison with a 6 5/8 inch Megalodon tooth, a 3 1/8 inch fossil Great White (they got bigger in the past) and a 1 1/2 inch modern day Great White. Photo Credit: Brandon Zulli

    How strong was the Megalodon’s bite?

    In 2008, a team of conducted an experiment to determine the bite force of the great white shark, using a 8 foot (2.4 meter) long individual, and then scaled the results up for the estimated maximum size of the Megalodon. The scaled up bite force estimate would be between 108,514 N (24,400 lb) and 182,201 N (41,000 lb) To put this in context, the largest confirmed Great White shark would have had a bite force of around 4,100 lbs and an estimated 12,800 lbs for and adult T-Rex. This massive bit force would easily have been enough to crush a whale’s skull. Find out more...

    When did the Megalodon go extinct?

    The most recent analysis of Megalodon fossils put it’s extinction at approximately 2.6 million years ago. Find out more…

    Is the Megalodon still alive?

    No, there is not a single legitimate marine biologist, shark expert or paleontologist that believes there is any chance the Megalodon shark could still be alive. There has never been a single piece of physical evidence found, pointing to it being alive today, unless you consider bad Discovery Channel computer graphics and paid actors evidence. It’s fossil record ends abruptly about 2.6 million years ago, at the same time climate and ecosystem changes would have made it’s mode of life nearly impossible. Find out more…

    But, could the Megalodon be living in the deep oceans?

    No, not a chance. The Megalodon was a shallow water shark that needed huge amounts of food to sustain itself, as well as shallow, warm water for nursery areas. Comparing the habitat of the deep ocean to the shallows is more of a stretch than comparing the habitats of the rain forest and the arctic. Animals that can survive in one habitat can not survive in the other.

    If the Megalodon evolved into another shark that now lives undiscovered in the deep ocean (which is highly unlikely) it wouldn’t look or have a lifestyle anything like a Megalodon. Find out more…

    Why did the Megalodon go extinct?

    There were probably a variety of factors that contributed to it’s extinction. Around the time of it’s extinction 2.6 million years ago Earth’s climate changed drastically. The Earth was plunged into an ice age that also caused sea levels to drop drastically. The Megalodon and it’s prey thrived in warm waters, and the climate changes would have put extreme pressure on it’s food sources.

    Why do fossil Megalodon teeth come in so many different colors?

    The color of fossil Megalodon teeth has nothing to do with the original color of it’s teeth which would have been white like modern day shark teeth. The color comes from the minerals that replaced the tooth during the fossilization process or leached into the tooth post fossilization. That is why coloration tends to be very distinctive of different localities, because of the varying mineral content in the ground. Find out more…
    Megalodon teeth can exhibit a very wide range of colorations which are often very distinctive to the locality at which they are found.

    How many teeth did the Megalodon have?

    The Megalodon had 46 front row teeth, 24 in the upper jaw and 22 in the lower jaw. Most sharks had at least six rows of teeth, so a Megalodon would have had about 276 teeth in it’s mouth at any given time. The teeth in the back rows were replacement teeth, sliding in to replace the front teeth when they become worn or damaged.
    A reconstructed Megalodon jaw showing the multiple rows of teeth.

    How often did the Megalodon replace it’s teeth?

    The Megalodon like all sharks replaced it’s teeth as it grew or the teeth become worn/damaged. New teeth are continually grown in a groove in the shark’s mouth and the skin acts as a “conveyor belt” to move the teeth forward into new positions. Younger sharks replace their teeth more often than older ones. Unfortunately we have relatively little real data on the tooth replacement rates of modern day sharks, let alone a prehistoric one. But we can safely assume an adult Megalodon would have shed thousands of teeth in it’s lifetime.

    Are Megalodon teeth common?

    Megalodon teeth are relatively common fossils in many locations. The reasons for this is that the Megalodon (and other sharks) shed their teeth during their lifetime or as they grew. It's estimated that an adult Megalodon shark may have shed as many as 20k teeth during it's lifetime. Teeth also tend to fossilize pretty easily. Larger teeth tend to much rarer as there were progressively fewer larger sharks than smaller ones, and the vast majority of fossil Megalodon teeth that are found are not complete or damaged. So, while Megalodon teeth are common, large, good quality specimens can be very rare.

    If the Megalodon was such as huge shark, why are there so many small teeth?

    Most fossil Megalodon teeth that are found are small, maybe around 2 inches long. A Megalodon was not born with massive 6 inch teeth but rather shed and replaced there teeth with progressively larger ones as they grew. Since few sharks would have survived to adulthood, there would be far more small Megalodon teeth than large ones.

    Where are Megalodon teeth found?

    The Megalodon had a cosmopolitan (worldwide) distribution in warmer waters so it’s teeth are found all over the world. Megalodon teeth are common in much of the SE United states, Florida, Georgia, the Carolina’s, etc. They have been found on the West Coast in California. They are also well known from the deserts of Chili, the Western Sahara Desert, Cuba, and many other places worldwide.

    What did the Megalodon eat?

    A large adult Megalodon may have required more than a ton of food EACH DAY to sustain its lifestyle. Fossil evidence indicates the Megalodon preyed primarily upon marine mammals including whales, dolphins, sea lions and sea cows. Many whale bones have been found that have clear bite marks made by teeth that match the Megalodon’s. Megalodon teeth have also been found in close association with whale fossils, possibly lost during feeding.

    Was the Megalodon related to the Great White Shark?

    This is a topic that has been debated for years but recent research and analysis of fossils show that the Megalodon and the Great White are NOT closely related. The Great White shark is closely related to an ancient shark Isurus hastalis, the "broad tooth mako", rather than to Megalodon. The Megalodon shark appears to be a chronospecies who's line can be traced back to the Otodus shark in the Paleocene, some 60 million years ago. No modern day sharks evolved from, or are closely related to the Megalodon, the line simply died out.

    BBC: Great whites 'not evolved from megashark'

    Why aren’t there fossils of other parts of the Megalodon?

    While Megalodon teeth are common fossils, other fossils material of the Megalodon is very rare, consisting of the occasional vertebra. The reason for this is that the skeletal structure of sharks is made of cartilage, not bone. It’s very rare for cartilage to fossilize.

    Is that Megalodon tooth stuck in a whale vertebra real?

    There are several pictures of a Megalodon tooth purportedly embedded in a fossil whale vertebra floating around the Internet.

    This is a fabrication that unfortunately has tricked many people. Find out more…

    How much are fossil Megalodon teeth worth?

    The value of fossil Megalodon teeth is highly dependent on many factors including size, condition, location found, etc. Small Megalodon teeth or Megalodon teeth with defects are common at some locations and thus don’t have much commercial value. Large teeth with few defects, teeth with unique coloration or from locations where they are rare can fetch thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars from collectors. You can read more about Megalodon teeth pricing here, or check out our selections of fossil Megalodon teeth for sale ranging from about $10 to over $1k.