For shark lovers, there is no greater oceanic mystery than that of the ancient megalodon. Known as the largest shark species ever recorded, these creatures could potentially grow more than 60 feet in length. Recently, a team of paleontologists released a study surrounding the struggle between the great megalodon and an ancient sperm whale.
Study lead researcher, Stephen Godfrey, said that due to the megalodon’s large size and incredibly predatory nature, these apex predators, “were preying on whatever they wanted to, and no marine animal was safe from attacks from these giant sharks.”
The sperm whale tooth itself measures 4.5 inches long. Researchers participating in the megalodon study used an equation that compares extinct sperm whale tooth size with body size. Interestingly, the measurement found the attacked sperm whale to be only 13 feet long. The short length clearly marked it as an extinct breed of sperm whale. Modern sperm whales reach up to 50 feet in length.
According to Live Science, the ancient sperm whale was attacked in waters that, millions of years ago, covered the state of North Carolina. One of the study’s researchers and an amateur fossil collector, Norman Riker, located the tooth in the Nutrien Aurora Phosphate mine. The mine is located in Aurora, NC. The outlet shared that Riker was able to dig up the tooth in the mine during the 1970s or ’80s. Previously, the mine was open to amateur fossil collectors. The tooth now resides at the Calvert Marine Museum, after Riker passed away at the age of 80 last December.
Unfortunately, scientists are unable to place when exactly the megalodon/sperm whale attack took place. Decades ago, fossil collectors were able to go into the mines and dig through the sedimentary layers within. Therefore, the organic dating system researchers currently use did not work. Sedimentary layers in rock formations show scientists the progression of time through the millennia. Because they could not decipher which layer it came from, the age of the tooth is anywhere between 23 million and 2.5 million years old.
The Tooth Reveals Hunting Habits of the Megalodon
The location of and study surrounding the tooth is no doubt significant. However, the gouges on the whale tooth are truly what tell the tale of the megalodon attack.
The study shares that the sperm whale tooth sports three gouges across. Further, those gouges show that whatever attacked the ancient sperm whale had serrated and evenly spaced teeth. They found the size and spacing of the marks prove that the only predator which could have attacked the whale was a megalodon.
Further, Godfrey said, “Up until now, bite traces by these giant sharks,” meaning megalodons measuring over 60 feet in length, “have been found on other bones of extinct whales and dolphins, but never on the head or other bones of a sperm whale.”
Therefore, the aforementioned details prove to scientists that the whale must have been alive during the vicious attack. They hypothesize that a small possibility does exist in that the shark could have scavenged a whale carcass. However, it’s more likely the whale was attacked while alive. The tooth gouges reveal that before the shark, “could cut into the sperm whale tooth, it first had to cut through the jaw bone,” meaning the megalodon struck the head of the whale to inflict mortal wounds with the intent to kill.