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Are great white sharks the reason for megalodons’ extinctions?

By: Tina Wu

The megalodon (Otodus megalodon) was humongous, almost 46 feet long on average. This extremely large creature dwelt in the ocean around 23 million years ago.

That was when the megalodon had not yet gone extinct, they dwelt at the top of the food chain. They were accompanied by the great white shark as the top predators in the deep sea.

This led scientists to speculate whether the great white shark played a role in the megalodon’s extinction. Curious about the answer, researchers began an experiment.

The experiment

The researchers inspected teeth from both great white sharks and megalodons. They specifically looked for zinc isotopes. One tooth showed zinc-66, while the other showed zinc-64. These isotopes can help scientists find out where different animals lay in the food chain.

For instance, plants eaters’ bones contain more zinc 66, while animals higher in the food chain have more zinc 64.

Experimenters discovered that both sharks ate the same type of prey. These two deadly sharks mostly ate whales or seals. Because of this result, scientists believe that a contest for food led the megalodon to its death.

On May 31, 2022, the scientists published their discoveries in Nature Communications. The leader of the team is Jeremy McCormack, a geoscientist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

What have the scientists concluded?

It is also not clear if the two sharks really fought for the same food, or if that caused the megalodon to go completely extinct. Other theories suggest that their extinction may have been caused by adjustments of the ocean currents or a sudden decrease in the number of marine animals.

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