Researchers Discover Massive Shark Tooth Thought to Be Millions of Years Old

by Craig Garrett
Fossil Shark Tooth Comparison Photo - Mako Shark verses Great White Shark. Lee Creek Fossils. - stock photo

Researchers have discovered a shark tooth believed to have belonged to the largest shark ever – the extinct megalodon. The tooth was discovered in June by the Ocean Exploration Trust, Fox Weather reports. This was during an expedition to study the deep-sea biology and geology of Johnston Island. The island is located in the Pacific Ocean, several hundred miles southwest of Hawaii, and is currently administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

10,000 feet below the sea’s surface, the team sampled rocks with a ferromanganese coating using a remotely operated vehicle on an uncharted seamount. The authorities have not confirmed whether or not the tooth belongs to a megalodon shark. However, they did send it off for lab analysis at the University of Rhode Island Marine Geological Samples Laboratory.

The megalodon, an ancient shark that lived 23 to 3.6 million years ago was once the most fearsome sea predator according to Smithsonian Institution. This creature was more than three times longer than the great white sharks of today. The purpose of the Ocean Exploration Trust, founded in 2008 by Dr. Robert Ballard, is to explore the ocean from aboard Nautilus, a 210-foot research vessel.

More on the research vessel that discovered the massive shark tooth

Nautilus is a research vessel equipped with ROVs, or remotely operated vehicles. These allow the user to explore the ocean depths down to 3000 feet. Little Hercules, Argus, and Diana are all part of the mapping system aboard Nautilus that lets researchers know more about what’s going on beneath the waves. The ship was the FS A. v. Humboldt, and it served the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea ResearchWarnemünde (IOW) until 2004. In 2021, it had a partial refit where it was lengthened to 68 meters. Additionally, cranes, cabins, and a mission control center were added.

A studio was built on board Nautilus so people could interact with each other and do live productions. Scientists and educators use this space to communicate with others located at schools, museums, aquariums, or science centers all around the world. If someone wants to talk to us from shore-based groups, they can either use an intercom unit or telephone that’s connected to the shipboard intercom system.

Megalodon, which translates to “big tooth”, is an extinct species of mackerel shark. It flourished during the Early Miocene to Pliocene epochs–approximately 23 million to 3.6 million years ago. It was believed to be related to the great white shark. However, now it’s classified as a different extinct family called Otodontidae. It diverged from great whites during the early Cretaceous period.

The megalodon is thought to have been one of the largest and most powerful predators ever. However, we only know about it from fragmentary remains. Scientists aren’t sure what it would have looked like or how big it could get. They believe it may have resembled a stockier version of the great white shark.