Scientists are officially debunking the myth that megalodon sharks still exist. These whale-eating monsters became extinct about 2.6 million years ago.
I was drawn to the study of Carcharocles megalodon’s extinction because it is fundamental to know when species became extinct to then begin to understand the causes and consequences of such an event,” says Catalina Pimiento, a doctoral candidate at the Florida Museum of Natural History at University of Florida.
Published in PLOS ONE, the study represents the first phase of Pimiento’s ongoing reconstruction of megalodon’s extinction. As modern top predators, especially large sharks, are significantly declining worldwide due to the current biodiversity crisis, the study serves as the basis to better understand the consequences of these changes.
When you remove large sharks, then small sharks are very abundant and they consume more of the invertebrates that we humans eat. Recent estimations show that large-bodied, shallow-water species of sharks are at greatest risk among marine animals, and the overall risk of shark extinction is substantially higher than for most other vertebrates,” Pimiento said.
When we calculated the time of megalodon’s extinction, we noticed that the modern function and gigantic sizes of filter feeder whales became established around that time. Future research will investigate if megalodon’s extinction played a part in the evolution of these new classes of whales,” Pimiento explained.
The slowly unraveling details of megalodon’s extinction and various aspects of its natural history have consumed Pimiento’s research for the past seven years, including ongoing analysis of megalodon’s body size and a 2010 PLOS ONE study that suggested that Panama served as a nursery habitat for the species.
For the new study, researchers used databases and scientific literature of the most recent megalodon records and calculated the extinction using a novel mathematical model proven reliable in recent experimental testing by study coauthor Christopher F. Clements with the Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies at the University of Zurich.
The study will not only serve as a key reference for debunking the myth that megalodon still exists, but its new methods will influence the future of scientific research of extinct animals and plants, says Jorge Velez-Juarbe, a vertebrate paleontologist in the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
In this work, scientists applied that same methodology to determine the extinction of an organism millions of years ago, instead of hundreds. It’s a new tool that paleo-biologists didn’t have, or rather had not thought of using before.”
via University of Florida