Megalodon Shark Demands Rematch with Predator X and “Moby Dick” Sperm Whale!

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! C. megalodon mega-shark demands rematch with old nemesis Predator X.  Says newly discovered “Moby Dick” sperm whale is all tooth and no bite! Extra!  Read all about it!

OK, having a little fun here! Yesterday’s post was:

Does prehistoric “Moby Dick” sperm whale dethrone the mighty Predator X?

In this post, I compared some of the greatest predators in the history of our planet.  I ventured that the crown should still belong to Predator X as probably having the most dangerous bite of all time.

Predator X - The King of Crush

But I also offered the view that the newly discovered ancient sperm whale, Leviathan melvillei, may well have had a killing bite to match Predator X. It certainly had bigger teeth!

So did the first post disrespect C. megalodon, the greatest shark of all time, the ultimate”Jaws,” which dwarfs modern great whites the way a Rottweiler dwarfs a Chihuahua?

Today's white shark and the mighty C. megalodon

C. megalodon was certainly one of the greatest sea predators of all time, if not the greatest—but that’s a point of debate! It is certainly one of very biggest fish of all time, although the largest sea creature that’s ever lived is still today’s magnificent blue whale. And since the mighty blue whale eats krill and small fish, it could be argued that the blue whale is in fact the greatest predator of all time, as one observant reader noted.

Whether a 50-60 foot shark or marine reptile would dare take on a 80 to 100 foot blue whale is open to question! Packs of orca have been known to attack blue whales, but one-on-one, between two creatures, would be a different matter, no doubt. The blue whale is incredibly fast for its size, too, and is able to hit bursts of 30 mph, and so wouldn’t be easy to catch unless surprise attacked. (The blue whale is one of my favorite creatures. Be sure to see my post: The Largest Animal That’s Ever Lived.)

The Mighty Blue Whale, the Largest Animal that Ever Lived

When it comes to comparing these ancient, toothy super predators, I knew what I’d written might be controversial. Why? Because sizing up C. megalodon has always been controversial. So, I wasn’t surprised, and rather delighted, to get an immediate and engaging comment on the post, taking C. megalodon’s side:

According to Wikipedia, the latest estimates of Megalodon are that it had a size of about 20 meters and a mass of about 100 metric tons. The bite force was about 41,000 lbf, which leaves Predator X in the dust at 33,000 lbf. It was more massive than Predator X, had a more powerful bite, had serrated teeth which were perfect for slicing, and basically never ran out of teeth. In other words, megalodon would likely have whupped both Predator X and this new sperm whale if they had co-existed. It probably fed on blue whales and other large whales.

Well, what about it? Let’s have some fun and take a look at the scientific facts, estimates, and theories surrounding these magnificent ancient creatures. I still feel that what I wrote in the first post is scientifically defensible, although some might argue I’m too conservative about claims for C. megalodon. If you rummage around the internet, you’ll find that some predators almost have fan clubs, and there are huge debates and flame wars over which animal is more ferocious than another. But, I think this (non-flaming) commenter makes a good point, so let’s have some fun and  look into it!

C. megalodon and the Fossil Problem

The first thing to know about C. megalodon, if that we have no complete skeletons of them—none, nada. Good shark fossils are extremely rare. Like all sharks, C. megalodon did not have bones; their bodies consist of tissue and cartilage.  Dead sharks rot and disassemble quickly. Rapid decomposition means there’s little left to preserve. So, what paleontologist usually find are the hardest parts of the shark: its teeth, its jaws, and sometimes, vertebrae.

This presents a problem. As our beloved and oft-quoted Wikipedia tells us, “Estimating the maximum size of C. megalodon is a highly controversial and difficult subject.” Indeed! The reason for this is the lack of definitive fossil evidence. So, what scientists have done is hypothesize that the great white shark is (apparently) a good analogue for C. megalodon. Based on this assumption, scientists then rely on what they know about morphology of great whites to make assumptions and estimates about C. megalodon.

Of course, there are obvious problems with this.  And in fact, the most recent hypothesis about great whites is that they are only distant relatives of C. megalodon and actually share a closer relationship to ancient mako sharks. So, we just don’t know, and probably never will know, if our the body structure of the modern great white can tell us anything final about C. megalodon.

C. megalodon—A Controversial Fish Measured by Its Teeth

OK, so if we don’t have complete fossils of C. megalodon, how in the heck do researchers come up with these huge size estimates? Relying on the morphology of great whites, scientists make estimates based on the statistical relationships between tooth sizes and body lengths of the great white. To date, the largest C. megalodontooth measures about 7 and 5/8 inches in length:

Largest known C. megalodon Tooth

Simple, right? If a C. megalodon tooth is size X, then that means the shark was length Y. Piece of cake. Except it’s not. Here’s where the “”Estimating the maximum size of C. megalodon is a highly controversial and difficult subject” part comes in, even assuming that a great white is a good analogue for Megalodon.

I’m not going to spend time rehashing all the controversies and various statistical methodologies scientists have come up with for estimating the physical anatomy of C. megalodon. But Wikipedia does do a nice overview, and there are at least 5 or more methodologies that arrive at varying answers. In general, Randall, Gottfried, and Jeremiah arrive at calculated estimates in the 40 to 50 foot range, and a shark weighing around 50 tons. No small fish!

Well, what about speculated, non-calculated maximum, based on no existent fossil tooth? Some scientists speculate that the “mother of all C. megalodons” might—repeat, might—have reached 60-65 plus feet.  Based on one group of researchers way of calculating body mass, this would translate into a 100 ton shark. Is this length and weight credible? Well, who knows? Without the “mother of all shark fossil teeth” to use for some sort of scientific calculation (calculations which are themselves debated) how can we ever verify this?  Is it even likely?  Scientific opinions actually vary.

Everyone can and should have their own opinion on this, but speaking for myself, I would tend to stay with the conservative estimates that are actually based on real teeth and that use some sort of good statistical/mathematical model: a 40 to 50 foot and 50 ton fish, with 60 feet a possible upper limit for a super fish.. (The largest C. megalodon fossil tooth is about 7 inches and 5/8ths inches long, and to me, that tooth points to the smaller sizes based on researchers own tooth/size formulas.)

Comparing C. megalodon’s and Predator X’s Bites

There’s no doubt that a 50 plus foot, 50-ton fish with 7 inch long serrated teeth has one hell of a bite! Take a look at this reconstruction of C. megalodon’s jaws, and then imagine these jaws connected to 50 tons of muscled fury. A man can stand upright in those jaws! It would swallow a diver whole!

C. megalodon's mighty jaws

Although as yet we don’t have a similar Predator X reconstruction, compare the shark’s gape with the gape of Predator X, whose teeth were daggers twice as long as C. megalodon’s..

Predator X's toothy gape

Well, what do you think?  Which jaw does more damage to a larger animal, since either swallows a diver whole!  I think the bigger, deeper, nastier bite goes to Predator X, but that’s just my personal opinion. You may prefer the big shark’s bite with those serrated teeth. Any large whale in ancient seas attacked by either of these predators was certainly doomed.

So, how about bite force? Here’s where my commenter friend claims that C. megalodon clearly wins, referring to Wikpedia and with its citation of an estimated (by some researchers)  41,000 lbf (bite force) compared to Predator X’s estimated 33, 000 lbf.

This high figure for C. megalodon is based on estimates done by researcher Stephen Wroe in 2008 on the white shark’s biting power. This range for C. megalodon is based on the assumption that C. megalodon’s bite was 6 to 10 times that of a great white. (Again, the great white assumption!) Since a great white bites with a calculated 4,000 lbf, the 6 to 10 times figures for C. megalodon represent a range of possible bite forces of 24,000 lbf to 40,000 lb.   The upper limit seems to be based on the assumption that the great white shark is an accurate analogue for C. megalodon and that it could have reached the (to me) unlikely 65 foot/100 ton range.

I don’t know the science behind these estimates or what the basis is for the claim that C. megalodon’s bite had to be 6 to 10 times that of a great white.  So, while I can’t comment on the how accurate these estimates might be, I can certainly assert that there no definitive proof in these range of estimates that C. megalodon bit harder than Predator X.  It might have, but we just don’t know—just as we don’t know if C. megalodon could surpass 60 feet in length, rather than the more conservative, actual tooth-calculated sizes of 40 to 50 feet.  We can argue “likelihoods” all day, no doubt!

And what about the newly discovered “Moby Dick” super sperm whale?

The debate as whether C. megalodon or Predator X was more “bad ass” is endless, and it’s a lot of fun.  But such debates are irresolvable, in my opinion, and finally, online debating is not doing  science. This blog isn’t a place to debate the issue of what animal could “whup” the other (thank you, original commenter, for the “whup” analogy!), though it’s open to views and surmises that are based somewhere in actual scientific research and data.

Ancient sperm whale Leviathan melvillei

So, where does the gigantic, toothy extinct sperm whale, Leviathan melvillei fit in the picture? At 60 feet in length, the size of a modern sperm whale, and with a killer whale-like mouth, with upper and lower teeth that were 14 inch long daggers that fit together like shears, I think Leviathan melvillei had one formidable bite. And it was huge—considerably bigger than Predator X, and probably bigger than most C. megalodons that we have actual physical evidence for.

I couldn’t’ find any bite force figures for Leviathan melvillei, which isn’t surprising, given what a new discovery it is. Since the jaw structure of Leviathan melvillei is so different from a modern sperm whale, there’s probably no helpful analogue comparing them. Maybe the bite force of a killer whale would be a better analogue, but the head structure of a sperm whale is very different from that of killer whales. We just don’t know, as yet, how powerful we might be able to estimate the muscles and jaw structure of this new beast might have been.

Ladies and Gentlemen, maybe, it’s a draw!

If I was a betting man, I’d probably still put my money on Predator X as the ultimate predator.  (Again, scroll back up and compare the jaws and gapes of Predator X and C. megalodon.)  But I certainly can understand arguments for the possibility of some C. megalodon on steroids as the champ.  It could be argued that the serrated teeth 7 inch teeth of the shark might cut better than Predator X’s 12 inch daggers.  But Predator X might be able to take a bigger bite with its massive jaws. Again, maybe!

If bigger shark teeth are dug up, I’ll believe in bigger sharks.  As for the new kid on the block, Leviathan melvillei, it might be too early to say. In any event, 60 foot-long, 50-ton sperm whale with an orca-like mouth filled with 14 inch teeth would be do horrendous damage to anything it attacked.

Who knows what will show up? Maybe some fossil hunter will find a C. megalodon tooth bigger than the current record 7 and 5/8 inch tooth. Maybe the Predator X that was found wasn’t full-grown and even bigger pliosaurs are waiting to be discovered. Ditto Leviathan melvillei. Or maybe some entirely new beast will show up:

"Actually, my 'bark' is much worse than my bite!"

It’s fun and fascinating to learn about the biggest, fastest, strongest, longest, tallest things in nature. This blog is all about such marvels. It’s fun to think, “Just how big might some creature have gotten? What’s the theoretical limit?” The quest to answer these kinds of questions never ends.  But always, in science, the emphasis is on physical evidence and theories that are in some way testable or verifiable.  Where solid evidence or testability are lacking, then it seems right to me to be conservative about what’s theoretically possible or what’s likely.

All three of these great ancient predators are marvels in their own right, and unlike movie monsters, these monsters actually lived and hunted in our seas.  Today’s great white sharks and killer whales are, after humans, top predator of the seas. They—and our oceans—deserve to be protected so that future generations will be able to marvel at the wonders of our oceans and the creatures that live in them.

The future of the world is in our hands—what will we do?

♥♥♥

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Comments
38 Responses to “Megalodon Shark Demands Rematch with Predator X and “Moby Dick” Sperm Whale!”
  1. David M says:

    Thanks for the followup.

    You seem to have quoted me several times, specifically that I said “megalodon would likely have whupped Predator X” in terms of “internet flame wars”. Sorry if the use of the word “whup” reminds you of internet flame wars, that was not my intention. It was just an attempt at your own facetious style of referring to Predator X as the “Bad Dude of Bites”.

    Yes, there are many estimates of megalodon’s size. You make much of the idea that you’re only basing size estimates on “extant” teeth, but this is silly. There is no reason to believe that we have samples covering the range of variation of any extinct species, including megalodon. This is why sizes are described in terms of ranges, and anyone interested enough can read the entry in Wikipedia himself and see that a range of sizes is offered for megalodon, and MANY researchers agree that the upper limit was about 20 meters (one cites says 25 meters). A 20 meter megalodon would weigh 100 tonnes. As the article says:

    “At present, scientists commonly suggest that C. megalodon likely approached maxima of 18.2–20.3 metres (60–67 ft) in length. In 1994, a marine biologist Patrick J. Schembri claimed that C. megalodon may have approached a maximum length of 25 metres (82 ft). The early size estimation of C. megalodon was perhaps not far fetched. However, Gottfried et al., in 1996, proposed that C. megalodon could likely approach a maximum length of 20.3 metres (67 ft). The shark weight measuring technique suggested by the same team indicates that C. megalodon at this length would have a body mass of 103 metric tons (114 short tons).”

    In other words, these are not far-fetched radical estimates; they are actually statistical estimates based on teeth we actually have, and standard deviations calculated on their basis.

    You also mention that bite forces were calculated based on similarities to great white sharks. Well, you know, we sort of have to compare to some living animal when we’re talking about extinct species, since the animal in question is no longer available. Sure, this may lead to inaccuracies. But hey, that applies equally to Predator X, whose bite force was calculated based on supposed similarities to alligators. Megalodon was certainly more closely related to great whites than Predator X was to alligators. It seems kind of naive to point out the flaws in the methodology when talking about megalodon but to ignore the same or deeper flaws when talking about Predator X.

    You mention the difference between the 7″ teeth of megalodon versus the 12″ teeth of Predator X, and would “put your money” on Predator X. I’m not sure I would, since tooth size isn’t determined by which predator was the “ultimate predator”. It’s determined by the use to which said teeth are put. Sharks tend to ram their prey from underneath, take a large bite out, and continue to move past the prey. Then they turn back, repeat. For this purpose, slicing teeth are great, hence the 7″ serrated teeth. On the other hand, a predator with larger dagger like teeth probably had a different mode of attack. Perhaps it crushed and pierced skulls. Who knows. When we find a large number of fossils with the marks of Predator X’s teeth, we’ll know how he hunted. Meanwhile, we already know how megalodon hunted, because we have tons of fossils of whales with megalodon’s bite marks. It sliced off chunks of flesh. With larger whales, it sliced of flippers first, to make the whale less able to move, then went back at leisure to kill.

    I agree that all these comparisons of long dead species to determine which was more badass are stupid. They didn’t live in the same period. Their hunting methods evolved to deal with their normal prey. They had no instincts to know how to deal with a different predator, 100 million years in their past or future, with which you might pit them on an internet discussion board.

    However, in view of the tone of your article about Moby Dick “dethroning” Predator X, I took it that you were taking a lighthearted approach in determining which extinct critter was more badass, and in the same spirit I said that in my view, megalodon could probably whup them all.

    • PS – And as an act of frienship, I did some light editing to make clear I wasn’t bashing you at all, but was delighted with your imagery and your call to marshal facts pro and con.

      Reading back on your objections, I see lots of argue back with. There are folks who don’t agree with Gottfried, for example, and his estimates for weight seem way higher than other researchers. Again, I don’t know the science behind this, so I’ll be agnostic, and just raise questions. If you look at the language of the article, you’ll see that while I raise questions, I’m am very careful to qualify most everything I say, and I repeatedly say where something is my personal take on the the data. I actually try to grant the legitimacy of other possible view: for example, I actually bring up the issue of those 7″ serrated teeth and say that some will no doubt feel that this is a big argument in favor of the big shark. I don’t agree, but I point it out.

      Anyway, maybe because you feel I was somehow personally after you, you couldn’t see my careful exposition and qualifying of views. I think they are there, and I think my view is still legitimate.

      Best wishes,
      Steve

      (Somehow this PS ended up before my first reply, which doesn’t seem to look like a reply. I hope you read it.)

    • David! My most sincere apologies if I came across as taking issue with your tone! Quite the contrary! I was delighted with it and it tried to do a “riff” on it for the fun of the readers. I in no way intended to say your fun remark was at all in the same ballpark or same tone as the flame wars I referred to. So, here, publicly, I apologize for somehow conveying that, and that possibly I conveyed that to others. Mea culpa!

      Your great comment was one of the main inspirations for writing the follow-up, in the metaphor of a prize fight, and all because of your great “whup” image.

      As for your remarks, they are most excellent and I see your viewpoint. No doubt many readers will side with this view. As for the Wikipedia quote that “At present, scientists commonly suggest that C. megalodon likely approached maxima of 18.2–20.3 metres (60–67 ft) in length,” I think this is not strongly supported by actual research, or by other research I’ve done. The phrase “commonly suggest” doesn’t cut it with me. Who? When? In what papers? (I’m not asking this of you, my friend, but of the Wiki quote.) Maybe it’s “likely” but it’s purely speculation, and *all* the actual statistical analysis came up with sharks in the 40 to 50 foot range.

      Anyway, good point. Wiki is certainly on your side on this “common” suggestion that 60 plus is “likely” the maxima. That probably makes a certain kind of sense; if most sharks are in the 40 to 50 foot range, then 60 plus “likely” is some theoretical maxima. Whether any got that big, I don’t know and I’d still want to see the teeth, as in “Show me the Benjamins!”

      Again, sorry if I came across as bashing you in some way. I honestly didn’t mean it, and I’m so glad you made that post to the earlier article.

      With best wishes,
      Steve

    • You say that to base size estimates on the basis of “extant” teeth is “silly” but it’s not, it’s simply good science. What you argue is like claiming there could have been 30-foot-tall mastodons, because *theoretically* that’s possible because nothing in the morphology prevents this upper limit, even though the largest bones we’ve ever found point to a much smaller animal. One can speculate all one wants, but there’s nothing particularly scientific about such speculation.

      You say “There is no reason to believe that we have samples covering the range of variation of any extinct species, including megalodon,” and you make much to this, to paraphrase your criticism of me. But of course, it’s impossible to disprove a negative—impossible prove to you or anyone that such huge teeth *don’t* exist! You can’t disprove a negative! What I said and say, is that *all* the estimates based on *real* teeth and *real* statistical formulas, put the creature in the 40 to 50 range. That’s just the facts.

      If one wants to speculate that there *must* have been 60 to 70 foot creatures, speculate away. I can’t disprove a negative, but I can say that I don’t think it’s good science. Scientists can “suggest” all they want about what the believe/hope might be true, but this is not good science. Interesting, but not good science.

      You claim: “In other words, these are not far-fetched radical estimates; they are actually statistical estimates based on teeth we actually have, and standard deviations calculated on their basis.”

      If you can point me to where any of these researchers say that these upper limit sizes are actually based on “statistical estimates based on teeth we actually have,” I’ll perhaps concede your point. As a physics major, I know a bit about “standard deviation” math and I don’t know anything that says you can just “plug in,” so to speak, the standard deviation formulas when talking about possible distribution of plant and animal size ranges. That’s not what I see in the research I’ve done on the sharks, but what you apparently believe they must have done.

      Furthermore, in terms of “standard deviation,” the big 7 inch plus tooth is by far the largest tooth ever found, while dozens and dozens of much smaller ones have been found through the years. In terms of “standard deviation” and the bell curve, this would strongly suggest that that big tooth is in fact are the far right right of the bell curve, at the upper limits. And what’s more, even this 7 inch tooth, in *all* the calculation formulas, points to a shark in the 40 to 50 foot range, not a single formula yielding a 65 foot plus shark. I think this cast extreme doubts their being 65 foot plus, 100 ton, Megs. The physical evidence, the statistical calculations, and yes, even the standard deviation bell curve (if its even applicable here) all argue against your super-meg.

      Re. your bite forces paragraph: you claim that megalodon was “certainly more closely related to great whites than Predator X was to aligators.” What is your source for this statement? In fact, Megalodon is *much* more closely related to mako sharks than great whites, and makos don’t have nearly the bite force of great whites. Second, Predator X was a pliosaur, and marine reptile, not a dinosaur, and in fact, if you read all the research the discoverers of P.X did, you find that the anatomical similarities of the PX to alligators is quite striking, in terms of where the muscles and tendons tie into the head, etc. etc. So, in fact, the alligator is a much better analogue for PX than a great white is for Meg.

      And here’s a further point: the Wiki entry is inaccurate, or at best, misleading. The good research and experiments done by Stephen Wroe was *not* done on Meg but on calculating great white shark bite power. Check it out. I think these experiments, which I’ve actually read about in some detail, were very good science and are benchmarks—for great whites. But here’s the big difference. The 6 to 10 greater bite power for Meg is NOT based on bio-mechanical experiments but is merely an extrapolation, NOT based on experiments or tests, that a shark that much bigger would have had that much more force. Show me where I’m wrong in the literature, but I can’t find any evidence that they did Meg biomechanical tests, only great white tests. Furthermore, any estimates made about Meg would be wholly theoretical and speculation, since we don’t have a fossil specimen to work with.

      On the other hand, with Predator X, they actually have a fossil of the animal, can actually see where tendons and muscles connected, and could make bio-mechanical test and experiments based on a physical reality, not a possibility, as with some supposed super-Meg. The 33,000 lbf thus has, for me, a lot more scientific credibility that just claiming that Meg “must” have had a 6 to 10 times stronger bit than a great white. Even if this “6 to 10” was based on some statistical formula, we have nothing that can tell us which end of the scale is more “likely” or even possible. Add to this the fact that Meg was more closely related to makos than great whites, and it further diminishes the credibility of the supposed range.

      • TBA says:

        Steven Goodheart,

        Your arguments can be easily dismantled by a person more knowlegeable in these matters than you. Read below.

        Your comment: “What I said and say, is that *all* the estimates based on *real* teeth and *real* statistical formulas, put the creature in the 40 to 50 range. That’s just the facts.

        If one wants to speculate that there *must* have been 60 to 70 foot creatures, speculate away. I can’t disprove a negative, but I can say that I don’t think it’s good science. Scientists can “suggest” all they want about what the believe/hope might be true, but this is not good science. Interesting, but not good science.”

        Refutation:-

        Scientists normally make do with what they have got at the time of research. It is also possible that at the time of research, largest of the fossils may not have been available to experts. Their can be many reasons like:

        1. The largest fossil tooth did not got sufficient publicity
        2. Or was in private collection of a fossil collector
        3. Or was excavated in a different nation

        In addition, shark size estimation methods certainly function upon good logics (based on observed facts). However, with passage of time, experts refine them further to sort out any issues and address probable anomalies.

        Let use examine the case of Randall – He proposed a method to estimate the size of sharks and used a tooth which had an “enamel height” of 115 mm. This indicates that the tooth itself would have a “maximum height” of around 130-135 mm (keeping in mind the anatomy of Megalodon teeth). So is this the largest fossil tooth? No

        The largest fossil teeth of Megalodon have “maximum height” of over 180 mm. The the largest tooth yet discovered has “maximum height” of around 194 mm (Courtesy: Bertucci family). The “enamel heights” of these teeth would be obviously greater than 115 mm.

        So Randall’s estimate of 13 m does not represents the largest Megalodon. It represents a much smaller individual. Of-course! The largest fossil teeth of Megalodon have been discovered much later, so Randall could not use them in his research work.

        Similarly, a team of scientists (Gottfried et al., 1996) modified and improved the shark size estimation technique proposed by Randall (which was not perfect enough) and they used a Megalodon tooth with “maximum height” of 168 mm to estimate the size of Megalodon. This tooth indicates a 15.9 m long individual, which even Gottfried’s team regarded as a “conservative estimate.” Since I have read that paper so I know much better than you.

        Hence, Randall’s case already got dismantled.

        However, a tooth with “maximum height” of 168 mm is definitely not the largest Megalodon tooth as already pointed out above. So let us use some of these largest known teeth for size estimation:

        Dr. G. Hubbell has a Megalodon tooth in his possession which by all accounts has a “maximum height” of 185 mm. This tooth (using Gottfried’s method) indicates a 17.7 m long individual – a conservative estimate.

        Of-course! The largest known Megalodon tooth indicates a 18.3 m long individual – again a conservative estimate.

        So (Hubbell et al., 2010) is correct when this team stated this: “C. megalodon is widely regarded as the largest shark to have ever lived. Based on tooth crown height (CH), this giant reached a total length (TL) of more than 16 m. One single tooth can exceed more than 168 mm of total height.”

        Also, it is possible that we may not have founded the largest Megalodon yet since most of these large individuals were lurking in deep waters rather than shallow waters and it isn’t easy to look for fossils in ocean floors.

        In the nutshell – These very large Megs were within 17 – 20 m size range (conservatively speaking). And 13 – 15 m size estimations are outdated. Makes sense – right? hmm!

        Your comment: “If you can point me to where any of these researchers say that these upper limit sizes are actually based on “statistical estimates based on teeth we actually have,” I’ll perhaps concede your point. As a physics major, I know a bit about “standard deviation” math and I don’t know anything that says you can just “plug in,” so to speak, the standard deviation formulas when talking about possible distribution of plant and animal size ranges. That’s not what I see in the research I’ve done on the sharks, but what you apparently believe they must have done.”

        Refutation:-

        The 168 mm tooth in possession of (Gottfried et al., 1996) provided 3 different size estimates:

        1. Most conservative is 15.9 m
        2. Normal is 17.0 m
        3. Most liberal is 20.3 m

        Even if you ignore the liberal part, we still have an animal within (15.9 – 17.0 m) size range on the basis of 168 mm tooth.

        Now imagine the possible size ranges presented by larger Megalodon teeth. Do I need to explain more?

        Your comment: “Furthermore, in terms of “standard deviation,” the big 7 inch plus tooth is by far the largest tooth ever found, while dozens and dozens of much smaller ones have been found through the years. In terms of “standard deviation” and the bell curve, this would strongly suggest that that big tooth is in fact are the far right right of the bell curve, at the upper limits. And what’s more, even this 7 inch tooth, in *all* the calculation formulas, points to a shark in the 40 to 50 foot range, not a single formula yielding a 65 foot plus shark. I think this cast extreme doubts their being 65 foot plus, 100 ton, Megs. The physical evidence, the statistical calculations, and yes, even the standard deviation bell curve (if its even applicable here) all argue against your super-meg.”

        Refutation:-

        I have already dismantled your comments.

        Your comment: “your bite forces paragraph: you claim that megalodon was “certainly more closely related to great whites than Predator X was to aligators.” What is your source for this statement? In fact, Megalodon is *much* more closely related to mako sharks than great whites, and makos don’t have nearly the bite force of great whites. Second, Predator X was a pliosaur, and marine reptile, not a dinosaur, and in fact, if you read all the research the discoverers of P.X did, you find that the anatomical similarities of the PX to alligators is quite striking, in terms of where the muscles and tendons tie into the head, etc. etc. So, in fact, the alligator is a much better analogue for PX than a great white is for Meg.”

        How have you determined that the closest living analogue to Megalodon is a one of the Mako? Ever seen Mako shark teeth? They are long needle like in shape and structure.

        The diagnostic characters of C. megalodon teeth include: large size, triangular shape, fine serrations on the cutting edges, a convex lingual face, a slightly convex to flat labial face, and a large v-shaped neck. (Courtesy: Hubbell et al., 2010)

        The teeth of white shark also have similar characteristics accept for that v-shaped neck is not very visible or absent.

        Also, their are much better ways to determine a closest living analogue of a fossil shark.

        (Hubbell et al., 2010) nicely sums up this case: “We based our C. megalodon estimates on extrapolations from the extant C. carcharias given their similarities in body shape, feeding habits, and tooth and vertebral morphology. In addition, both species belong to the same order (Lamniformes), and in the absence of living members of the Otodontidae, C. carcharias is the most analogous species available.”

        Now keep in mind this:

        Dr. Hubbell and his team mates do not accept megalodon as “Carharodon megalodon.” They accept it as “Carcharocles megalodon.”

        In the nutshell all shark experts agree that great white shark is the closest living analogue to Megalodon regardless of where ever they place it in evolutionary lineages of sharks. It is an established fact. I can go in to depth of this but my reply will become too long.

        Another interesting point was raised by (Gottfried et al) in 1996: “The very large and robust teeth of C. megalodon indicate that the megatooth jaws, in-order to functionally support such a massive dentition, would have been even more strongly developed than those of the white shark, which possess a formidable but somewhat more gracile dentition.”

        Of-course! Very large jaws provides massive room for jaw muscles. Coupled this with Robust jaw structure and Megalodon would have a very strong bite force.

        Even from fossil evidence; Megalodon teeth have impacted bones of whales with such a force that they left large gashes up to “3 inch deep.” This is after slicing through thick layers of flesh and blubber. In once case, a Megalodon tooth left deep cuts in another Megalodon tooth – Such was the force of the impact. In addition, many whale bones have been found torn apart from main skeletal structures as a result of biting of Megalodon.

        Your comment: “And here’s a further point: the Wiki entry is inaccurate, or at best, misleading. The good research and experiments done by Stephen Wroe was *not* done on Meg but on calculating great white shark bite power. Check it out. I think these experiments, which I’ve actually read about in some detail, were very good science and are benchmarks—for great whites. But here’s the big difference. The 6 to 10 greater bite power for Meg is NOT based on bio-mechanical experiments but is merely an extrapolation, NOT based on experiments or tests, that a shark that much bigger would have had that much more force. Show me where I’m wrong in the literature, but I can’t find any evidence that they did Meg biomechanical tests, only great white tests. Furthermore, any estimates made about Meg would be wholly theoretical and speculation, since we don’t have a fossil specimen to work with.”

        Refutation:-

        Works of S. Wroe are actually built upon the works of Gottfried et al.

        And S. Wroe gives a reasonable explanation: “FE has emerged as a powerful tool for the examination of
        form and function for both living and extinct species
        (Thomason, 1995; Rayfield et al., 2001; McHenry et al.,
        2007; Wroe et al., 2007a; Moreno et al., 2008), and is an
        asset for studying experimentally intractable organisms such as Carcharodon.”

        His jaw power estimation took is applicable to both living and extinct animals.

        Another valid reasoning is this:

        “The relationship between muscle force (a function of area)
        and bodymass (a function of volume) is negatively allometric and described by a two-thirds power rule. For most taxa, including sharks, this holds true for bite force (Huber et al., 2005).”

        Of-course! The very large and robust jaw structure of Megalodon provided massive room for jaw muscles and end result was a very powerful bite force.

        Your comments: “On the other hand, with Predator X, they actually have a fossil of the animal, can actually see where tendons and muscles connected, and could make bio-mechanical test and experiments based on a physical reality, not a possibility, as with some supposed super-Meg. The 33,000 lbf thus has, for me, a lot more scientific credibility that just claiming that Meg “must” have had a 6 to 10 times stronger bit than a great white. Even if this “6 to 10” was based on some statistical formula, we have nothing that can tell us which end of the scale is more “likely” or even possible. Add to this the fact that Meg was more closely related to makos than great whites, and it further diminishes the credibility of the supposed range.”

        Refutation:-

        Computerized models are just as good predictors as real life physical models. In-fact, scientists make many inventions on the basis of computerized simulations.

        We should keep in mind following things:

        1. White shark is the closest living analogue to Megalodon.
        2. Megalodon jaw structure was considerably larger, more robust, and provided greater room for jaw muscles than in white shark (scientific fact and not just a possibility).

        And you would have an answer.

        • TBA says:

          Steven Goodheart,

          Here is a more detailed reply for you:

          [This reply deleted, per suggestion of author, in lieu of his updated, more comprehensive reply, July 15, below]

          Steve

          • Wow! Hats off to you, my friend. You clearly put a lot of time, thought, and effort into this reubttle, and I appreciate your appeal to science and data.

            It will take me some time to digest this nearly 3,000 word missive, and I want to consider both your data and the logic and arguments they are wrapped in. I have two other blogs, and a life, so it might take me a while to answer in the kind of detail that your excellent critique warrants, so I beg your patience.

            If I can, I also want to contact other scientists in the field besides the ones you heavily rely on to see what they think of your data and arguments. It seems to me that you present your arguments as if there’s no question at all about any of this, and that nobody in the field has any other view than the one you are advocating. Maybe so; I will have to look further into it.

            The questions I raised, which you reply to in this latest comment, were not advocacy on my part, but the kind of questions any researcher would bring up. If your answers are indeed definitive, then I’ll happily admit publicly that I was wrong, and that your view is the only scientific one in the field.

            Just curious—are you an ichthyologist or zoologist by profession, or is this just a passion of yours? You are indeed a formidable debater, and I bow to your skill and zeal for the truth as you see it.

            More later,
            Steve

          • Hey friend, just starting to look into your rebuttal. (You did notice, by the way, that all my previous argument was based on the largest known shark tooth, which I correctly identify and show an image of in the post, not on what Randall has available. You spend a lot of time refuting Randall, and that wasn’t even my argument. Anyway, more on that later.)

            You state:

            In 2010, Hubbell et al, correctly stated: “C. megalodon is widely regarded as the largest shark to have ever lived. Based on tooth crown height (CH), this giant reached a total length (TL) of more than 16 m. One single tooth can exceed more than 168 mm of total height.”

            (a 52 foot shark)

            Then, you say:

            The 168 mm tooth in possession of (Gottfried et al., 1996) provided 3 different size estimates:

            1. Conservative TL is 15.9 m
            2. Normal TL is 17.0 m
            3. Liberal TL is 20.3 m

            Could you please point me to this second reference? I can’t verify it, so far, in my research.

            Thanks!

            Steve

          • Well, right off the bat, I find this, which on the face of it calls into question your data and assumptions, from ReefQuest Centre for Shark Research. From Gottfried himself, a quote/unquote “maximum size” 52 foot shark. Now I really want to know the sources for your other speculations. :)

            “Comparing the largest known White Shark teeth with those of Megalodon seems a natural way to figure out how large the fossil species was. Ichthyologist John E. Randall was the first to point out that in the White Shark, the largest upper teeth (second anteriors) are about as tall as the jaw that contains them is high. The early Megalodon reconstructions, however, featured jaws about three times too high in proportion to the teeth. Randall also suggested that there is a more-or-less direct linear correlation between a White Shark’s tooth enamel height and its total length. When Randall plotted a graph of tooth enamel height for white sharks of known length and the enamel height for the largest-known megalodon teeth, the position of the latter correlated to a total length of about 43 feet (13 metres). How could the museum curators have been so far off in their estimated size of Megalodon? Apparently, the original reconstructions relied on fossil teeth collected from several sites (thus representing several individuals), but they were all about the same size. However, in all extant lamnoids – including the White Shark – posterior teeth (those toward the corners of the jaws) are much smaller than anterior teeth (near the symphysis, or center, of the jaws). As a result of Randall’s work, early reconstructions of Megalodon are now known to be at least a third too large.

            In 1992, paleontologist John Maisey oversaw the construction of a model set of Megalodon jaws for the Smithsonian Institution. The reconstruction was inspired by the fortuitous discovery of a relatively complete set of fossil Megalodon teeth found in a North Carolina quarry by amateur fossil collector Peter Harmatuk. Starting with these fossilized teeth, Maisey based his interpretation of the jaws that had once contained them on both Randall’s estimate of Megalodon’s size and his own extensive studies of shark teeth and jaw suspension. Maisey’s model Megalodon jaws are about six feet (1.8 metres) across – corresponding to a 40-foot (12-metre) shark – and include more accurate muscle attachment sites, making them look decidedly less lip-like than earlier reconstructions. Maisey’s version thus provides us with a smaller (though still awesome) – but more accurate – impression of the Incredible Shrinking Megalodon.

            But few things die more reluctantly than a Really Big Fish story. A 1996 paper by paleontologist Michael Gottfried, shark systematist Leonard Compagno, and S. Curtis Bowman of the Hughes-Bowman Design Group casts some doubt on Randall’s method for estimating the size of Megalodon. According to Gottfried and his co-workers, White Shark tooth enamel height does not necessarily increase in proportion with the animal’s total length. In white sharks longer than about 16 feet (5 metres), tooth size seems to level off at a maximum size independent of further increase in body length. To remedy these shortcomings, Gottfried et al. used new data and several techniques to better estimate the size and weight of megalodon. They came up with a maximum total length of about 52 feet (15.9 metres) and an approximate mass of 48 tons (tonnes). By comparison, the largest known White Shark was about 23.5 feet (7.1 metres) long and had a mass of roughly 2.3 tons (tonnes).”

            • TBA says:

              Hello Steven,

              Thank you for appreciation. It is a long read and surely you would have many questions. So take your time. And I will do my best to provide reasonable answers.

              Also, my initial reply was incomplete. Hence, I gave a more detailed reply below. So focus on my “detailed reply” only. You can remove my initial reply (if you like to).

              Your comments: “If I can, I also want to contact other scientists in the field besides the ones you heavily rely on to see what they think of your data and arguments. It seems to me that you present your arguments as if there’s no question at all about any of this, and that nobody in the field has any other view than the one you are advocating. Maybe so; I will have to look further into it.”

              Opinions of experts are always welcomed. However, keep in mind following things;

              There are two schools of thoughts behind the subject of Megalodon. One school advocates Carcharodon megalodon (The Carcharodon Camp). The other school advocates Carcharocles megalodon (The Carcharocles Camp). Experts from both schools have a history of criticizing views of others, so you need a careful approach to things. Both schools have presented some excellent points though, which amateurs cannot easily understand. And most importantly, you should preferably have access to their scientific publications.

              The best thing to do is to consider all aspects of research conducted (to date) by reputed scientists from both camps and put them in to such a context, which can satisfy most if not all. National Geographic show “Prehistoric Predators (Monster Shark)” managed to pull off this amazing feat. It is an excellent paleontological documentary and I recommend every person to watch it.

              In 2010, Catalina Pimiento, Dana J. Ehret, Bruce J. MacFadden, and Gordon Hubbell presented a research paper titled “Ancient Nursery Area for the Extinct Giant Shark
              Megalodon from the Miocene of Panama.” These guys are in (Carcharocles camp) for Megalodon. However, they willingly accepted that great white shark is the closest “living” analogue to Megalodon, which is apparent from their study.

              Main reason is that regardless of where Megalodon sits in the great evolutionary tree of sharks, great white shark would remain our best guide for its physiological researches for some good enough reasons.

              As Hubbell et al, summed up the situation perfectly:

              “We follow the second hypothesis; that Carcharocles megalodon and Carcharodon carcharias belong to separate genera in different families. However, both species belong to the order Lamniformes, and in the absence of living members of the Otodontidae, C. carcharias should be regarded as ecologically analogous species to C. megalodon.”

              This flexibility in view indicates that members of “Carcharocles camp” are willing to concede that great white shark is the closest living analogue to Megalodon (but not its close relative). So I would advice you to follow this path as well. It will make life easier for you.

              Your comments: “The questions I raised, which you reply to in this latest comment, were not advocacy on my part, but the kind of questions any researcher would bring up. If your answers are indeed definitive, then I’ll happily admit publicly that I was wrong, and that your view is the only scientific one in the field.”

              My points are well researched. Reason is that I have the “best possible sources” at my disposal and I can use them wherever required. Trust me on this.

              Your comments: “Just curious—are you an ichthyologist or zoologist by profession, or is this just a passion of yours? You are indeed a formidable debater, and I bow to your skill and zeal for the truth as you see it.”

              I am not in to these professions but people close to me claim that “I have exceptional researching skills” and I do research a lot on things that interest me. I try to ponder on all

              I am the brain-child behind the wikipedia article on Megalodon and I helped it reach “Good Article” class through my contributions. However, wikipedia puts certain restrictions on your writings so I could not give it my best. Still it works.

              Your comments: “Hey friend, just starting to look into your rebuttal. (You did notice, by the way, that all my previous argument was based on the largest known shark tooth, which I correctly identify and show an image of in the post, not on what Randall has available. You spend a lot of time refuting Randall, and that wasn’t even my argument. Anyway, more on that later.)”

              The tooth you claimed to be the largest one yet found is actually not. Its actual “maximum height” is somwhere between 170 mm – 180 mm.

              The largest tooth yet found (which reportedly has a “maximum height” of around 194 mm) was discovered by Vito Bertucci and he used it in one of his jaw reconstructions.

              Also, Randall later on got hold of a Megalodon tooth which provided 1500 cm size for its true owner (shark). This was noted by Gottfried et al, in 1996.

              However, Randall’s method is not your best guide.

              For your questions:-

              This statement:

              “C. megalodon is widely regarded as the largest shark to have ever lived. Based on tooth crown height (CH), this giant reached a total length (TL) of more than 16 m. One single tooth can exceed more than 168 mm of total height.”

              Have been made by Hubbell et al in 2010. The study is this: “Ancient Nursery Area for the Extinct Giant Shark
              Megalodon from the Miocene of Panama.” Do check it out.

              This information:

              “The 168 mm tooth in possession of (Gottfried et al., 1996) provided 3 different size estimates:

              1. Conservative TL is 15.9 m
              2. Normal TL is 17.0 m
              3. Liberal TL is 20.3 m”

              Have been provided by Gottfried et al, in 1996. The study is “The Size and Skeletal Anatomy of the Giant “Megatooth” Shark.”

              Even this team admitted that their were rumours of larger teeth at that time.

              Now, larger teeth would definitely provide larger size ranges. For example:

              The largest tooth in the possession of a fossil collector (Steve A. Alter) has a “maximum height” of 180 mm (7.102 inch). It is not an Upper Anterior but still can give us a good glimpse of the size of its owner.

              It provides following size estimates:

              1. Conservative TL is 17.1 m
              2. Normal TL is 18 m
              3. Liberal TL is 21.7 m

              Your comments: “Well, right off the bat, I find this, which on the face of it calls into question your data and assumptions, from ReefQuest Centre for Shark Research. From Gottfried himself, a quote/unquote “maximum size” 52 foot shark. Now I really want to know the sources for your other speculations.”

              My responses are not speculations and I have nothing to hide.

              This is statement from Gottfried at al (1996): “We consider 1590 cm (52.2 feet) a conservative maximum estimate for C. megalodon.” (Page 61 from the source I already have quoted).

              At the point of conclusion of that research work, Gottfried et al possessed a 168 mm tooth. However, this team admitted that rumours of discovery of larger Megalodon teeth were spreading at that time. And these rumours were proven to be true by late Vito Bertucci.

              Regarding the information from ReefQuest:

              Keep in mind that the owner of this source (R. A. Martin) is deceased. Therefore, their is no one who would take interest in updating or improving information on his website. I sent an email to the current owners suggesting some improvements but I got no response.

              I can easily analyze the information from ReefQuest for you:-

              From ReefQuest: “Comparing the largest known White Shark teeth with those of Megalodon seems a natural way to figure out how large the fossil species was.

              This is correct. This is a very basic logic used for size estimation of Megalodon.

              From ReefQuest: Ichthyologist John E. Randall was the first to point out that in the White Shark, the largest upper teeth (second anteriors) are about as tall as the jaw that contains them is high. The early Megalodon reconstructions, however, featured jaws about three times too high in proportion to the teeth. Randall also suggested that there is a more-or-less direct linear correlation between a White Shark’s tooth enamel height and its total length. When Randall plotted a graph of tooth enamel height for white sharks of known length and the enamel height for the largest-known megalodon teeth, the position of the latter correlated to a total length of about 43 feet (13 metres). How could the museum curators have been so far off in their estimated size of Megalodon? Apparently, the original reconstructions relied on fossil teeth collected from several sites (thus representing several individuals), but they were all about the same size. However, in all extant lamnoids – including the White Shark – posterior teeth (those toward the corners of the jaws) are much smaller than anterior teeth (near the symphysis, or center, of the jaws). As a result of Randall’s work, early reconstructions of Megalodon are now known to be at least a third too large.”

              This information is also correct. The earliest jaw reconstruction (from Bashford Dean in 1909) had noticeable errors. Main reasons were as follows:

              1. No associated Megalodon dentitions were found. So Bashford Dean had not clue that how many teeth were present in jaws of a Megalodon in real life and how they were arranged within the jaws.

              2. Experts of that time (early 20th century) had relatively poor knowledge of shark anatomy.

              Randall pointed out the issues in works of Bashford Dean and decided to rectify them with aid of more accurate data available during 1970s. He proposed a shark size estimation method to estimate the size of white shark and similar sharks. This “scientific approach” eliminated the “use of hypothetical guess works” to estimate the size of extinct sharks, which was a norm in earlier times.

              The largest Megalodon tooth he had in possession during 1970s provided 13 m TL.

              This is jaw reconstruction by Bashford Dean:

              http://data3.blog.de/media/606/2129606_fb5a2adfe5_m.jpeg

              From ReefQuest: “In 1992, paleontologist John Maisey oversaw the construction of a model set of Megalodon jaws for the Smithsonian Institution. The reconstruction was inspired by the fortuitous discovery of a relatively complete set of fossil Megalodon teeth found in a North Carolina quarry by amateur fossil collector Peter Harmatuk. Starting with these fossilized teeth, Maisey based his interpretation of the jaws that had once contained them on both Randall’s estimate of Megalodon’s size and his own extensive studies of shark teeth and jaw suspension. Maisey’s model Megalodon jaws are about six feet (1.8 metres) across – corresponding to a 40-foot (12-metre) shark – and include more accurate muscle attachment sites, making them look decidedly less lip-like than earlier reconstructions. Maisey’s version thus provides us with a smaller (though still awesome) – but more accurate – impression of the Incredible Shrinking Megalodon.”

              The is the jaw reconstruction by John Maisey:

              http://www.fishingfury.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/01/megalodon-shark-jaw.jpg

              As pointed out in the paragraph, the discovery of associated dentitions of Megalodon led to more accurate jaw reconstructions.

              However, this jaw reconstruction does not represents the largest Megalodon. The largest teeth in it indicate a TL of 12 m – 13 m for this specimen using scientific methods.

              Just keep this simple logic in mind: “Larger teeth would correspond to larger jaws. And larger jaws would correspond to larger shark.”

              This explains my point perfectly;

              http://scienceblogs.com/clock/megalodon%20002.jpg

              From ReefQuest: “But few things die more reluctantly than a Really Big Fish story. A 1996 paper by paleontologist Michael Gottfried, shark systematist Leonard Compagno, and S. Curtis Bowman of the Hughes-Bowman Design Group casts some doubt on Randall’s method for estimating the size of Megalodon. According to Gottfried and his co-workers, White Shark tooth enamel height does not necessarily increase in proportion with the animal’s total length. In white sharks longer than about 16 feet (5 metres), tooth size seems to level off at a maximum size independent of further increase in body length. To remedy these shortcomings, Gottfried et al. used new data and several techniques to better estimate the size and weight of megalodon. They came up with a maximum total length of about 52 feet (15.9 metres) and an approximate mass of 48 tons (tonnes). By comparison, the largest known White Shark was about 23.5 feet (7.1 metres) long and had a mass of roughly 2.3 tons (tonnes).”

              This information clearly confirms my point.

              And I have elaborated further, that why Megalodon could have grown in excess of 16 m, using lastest data.

              The mega-shark (asserted by David M) is a very realistic possibility.

              As you can notice, very large fossils are once again indicating very large individuals:

              http://www.baileytoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/aquarium03.jpg

              http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2023/3859636884_8d9e306e43.jpg

              • Hey my friend. Thanks for this update. It looks even more comprehensive than your first post, and gives me some links, extracts, to peruse.

                As per your suggestion, I deleted material from your first reply, but left it there as a pointer to this later revision.

                I’ve got a new freelance writing assignment coming up next week for some social studies school books, and this is going to cut severely into my time for a while to work on my blogs, but I promise I’ll get back as soon as I can.

                Best wishes, and have a good weekend,

                Steve

                • TBA says:

                  Hello steven,

                  I wanted to touch more points, so here are more details:

                  [Fixed my one misspelling of Gottfried in my previous comment. Got it right in the article. (I'm dyslexic, but I still believe in dog!) Thanks, Steve]

                  Gottfried did not proposed any shark weight estimation technique on his own. He along with two other famous shark experts, L. J. V. Compagno, and S. W. C. Bowman (working as a team) collected length-mass data of 175 white shark specimens and analyzed it before determining a realistic relationship between the length and mass in white sharks. This work made it possible for scientists to provide realistic mass estimations of giant fossil white sharks at various sizes.

                  More details are provided in this scientific paper:

                  Gottfried MD, Compagno LJV, Bowman SC (1996) Size and skeletal anatomy of the giant megatooth shark Carcharodon megalodon. In: Klimley AP, Ainley DG, eds. Great white sharks: the biology of Carcharodon carcharias. San Diego: Academic Press. pp 55–89.

                  It should be kept in mind that as a shark grows larger; its mass does not increase in linear fashion. The mass of any shark increases exponentially.

                  Here is an example: A 2.5 m long white shark would typically have a body mass of around 240 kg. However, a white shark twice as long (5 m) would typically have a body mass of more than 800 kg.

                  According to the length-mass regression curve presented by Gottfried et al in 1996; a white shark within 10 – 12 m in length would have body mass of 11000 – 19000 kg.

                  The only extant shark that can approach these lengths is whale shark. For an example: The largest whale shark specimen (officially verified) was caught in Pakistan in 1940s and it reportedly measured 12.6 m in length and had weighed over 20,000 kg.

                  So any criticism is baseless.

                  Your comment: “As for the Wikipedia quote that “At present, scientists commonly suggest that C. megalodon likely approached maxima of 18.2–20.3 metres (60–67 ft) in length,” I think this is not strongly supported by actual research, or by other research I’ve done. The phrase “commonly suggest” doesn’t cut it with me. Who? When? In what papers? (I’m not asking this of you, my friend, but of the Wiki quote.) Maybe it’s “likely” but it’s purely speculation, and *all* the actual statistical analysis came up with sharks in the 40 to 50 foot range.”

                  Many shark experts believe that Megalodon could grow larger. Some well known advocates are Dr. C. Jeremiah, Dr. G. Hubbell, and D. Ward.

                  More hint comes from Gottfried et al:

                  A giant, rather recently extinct (late Pliocene) member of the white shark genus (the megatooth shark, Carcharodon megalodon, often placed in other genera or even families by some modern paleontologists) attained an estimated length when adult of about 11 to 20 m (Gottfried, Compagno and Bowman, 1996). Source of this statement is “Sharks of the World” (book) by L. J. V. Compagno

                  And I have already covered this part in detail in my previous reply.

                  The 168 mm tooth indicated a probable size range of 15.9 – 20.3 m for the Megalodon, via different principles.

                  Larger teeth would indicate larger size ranges, as already proved above by using the example of a 180 mm tooth.

                  More details are provided below.

                  Your comment: “You say “There is no reason to believe that we have samples covering the range of variation of any extinct species, including megalodon,” and you make much to this, to paraphrase your criticism of me. But of course, it’s impossible to disprove a negative—impossible prove to you or anyone that such huge teeth *don’t* exist! You can’t disprove a negative! What I said and say, is that *all* the estimates based on *real* teeth and *real* statistical formulas, put the creature in the 40 to 50 range. That’s just the facts.”

                  Main problem is that experts make do with what they have got at the time of research. Sometimes, at the time of research, largest fossils of an extinct taxon are not available to experts due to certain reasons, which can be as follows:

                  1. The largest fossils of an extinct taxon (e.g. Megalodon) were not discovered at the time of research.
                  2. The largest fossils (if discovered) were not revealed at the time of research.
                  3. The largest fossils were part of private collection of a person who did not revealed them to media.
                  4. Reports of the largest fossils could have been treated as rumors by experts, since they did not possessed them at the time of research.

                  Your comment: “If you can point me to where any of these researchers say that these upper limit sizes are actually based on “statistical estimates based on teeth we actually have,” I’ll perhaps concede your point. As a physics major, I know a bit about “standard deviation” math and I don’t know anything that says you can just “plug in,” so to speak, the standard deviation formulas when talking about possible distribution of plant and animal size ranges. That’s not what I see in the research I’ve done on the sharks, but what you apparently believe they must have done.”

                  This is very easy:

                  This method provides conservative size estimate:

                  -0.22 + [0.096 x (Maximum Tooth Height in mm)]

                  This method provides reasonable size estimate:

                  6 x [(Maximum Tooth Height in mm)/60]

                  This method provides liberal size estimate:

                  7.1 x [(Maximum Tooth Height in mm)/59]

                  Now each proposed method has a complex history behind it but amateurs should stick to usage and outcomes.

                  Just use these methods to estimate the size of the Megalodon.

                  Your comment: “Furthermore, in terms of “standard deviation,” the big 7 inch plus tooth is by far the largest tooth ever found, while dozens and dozens of much smaller ones have been found through the years. In terms of “standard deviation” and the bell curve, this would strongly suggest that that big tooth is in fact are the far right right of the bell curve, at the upper limits. And what’s more, even this 7 inch tooth, in *all* the calculation formulas, points to a shark in the 40 to 50 foot range, not a single formula yielding a 65 foot plus shark. I think this cast extreme doubts their being 65 foot plus, 100 ton, Megs. The physical evidence, the statistical calculations, and yes, even the standard deviation bell curve (if its even applicable here) all argue against your super-meg.”

                  The largest known Megalodon teeth are more than 180 mm long. Here is one example:

                  To date, I have seen several (7 + inch) Megalodon teeth and each of these came from different specimens (found in different locations). Hence, these very large individuals were not rare.

                  Also, adult Megalodon mostly lurked in deep waters while juvenile Megalodon were common in shallow waters. This is why most of the teeth found are small. Also, some regions are very challenging for fossil expeditions. And it is not easy to look for fossils in deep ocean floors. The famous fossil hunter, Vito Bertucci, who found many very large Megalodon teeth, actually lost his life in one of his expeditions.

                  And I have already provided size estimation methods for Megalodon above. The largest known teeth will give the answers you need.

                  Your comment: “Re. your bite forces paragraph: you claim that megalodon was “certainly more closely related to great whites than Predator X was to aligators.” What is your source for this statement? In fact, Megalodon is *much* more closely related to mako sharks than great whites, and makos don’t have nearly the bite force of great whites. Second, Predator X was a pliosaur, and marine reptile, not a dinosaur, and in fact, if you read all the research the discoverers of P.X did, you find that the anatomical similarities of the PX to alligators is quite striking, in terms of where the muscles and tendons tie into the head, etc. etc. So, in fact, the alligator is a much better analogue for PX than a great white is for Meg.”

                  Megalodon is not closely to any of the extant Mako shark.
                  Before you determine a close relative of fossil shark, first thing to do is to look at its teeth and compare them with those of the extant sharks. Once you get a closest possible match – you are spot on.

                  The teeth of Mako sharks have needle like structures.
                  However, the characteristics of Megalodon teeth are as follows:

                  “The diagnostic characters of C. megalodon teeth include: large size, triangular shape, fine serrations on the cutting edges, a convex lingual face, a slightly convex to flat labial face, and a large v-shaped neck.” (Hubbell et al, 2010)

                  Great white is the most analogous shark to Megalodon.
                  Reasons are obvious:

                  “We based our C. megalodon estimates on extrapolations from the extant C. carcharias given their similarities in body shape, feeding habits, and tooth and vertebral morphology. In addition, both species belong to the same order (Lamniformes), and in the absence of living members of the Otodontidae, C. carcharias is the most analogous species available.” (Hubbell et al, 2010)

                  The statements of Hubbell et al have been quoted from scientific paper titled “Ancient Nursery Area for the Extinct Giant Shark Megalodon from the Miocene of Panama.”

                  Your comment: “And here’s a further point: the Wiki entry is inaccurate, or at best, misleading. The good research and experiments done by Stephen Wroe was *not* done on Meg but on calculating great white shark bite power. Check it out. I think these experiments, which I’ve actually read about in some detail, were very good science and are benchmarks—for great whites. But here’s the big difference. The 6 to 10 greater bite power for Meg is NOT based on bio-mechanical experiments but is merely an extrapolation, NOT based on experiments or tests, that a shark that much bigger would have had that much more force. Show me where I’m wrong in the literature, but I can’t find any evidence that they did Meg biomechanical tests, only great white tests. Furthermore, any estimates made about Meg would be wholly theoretical and speculation, since we don’t have a fossil specimen to work with.”

                  Wroe et al provided a reasonable justification for their work:

                  “FE has emerged as a powerful tool for the examination of form and function for both living and extinct species (Thomason, 1995; Rayfield et al., 2001; McHenry et al., 2007; Wroe et al., 2007a; Moreno et al., 2008), and is an asset for studying experimentally intractable organisms such as Carcharodon.”

                  This statement is from scientific paper titled “Three-dimensional computer analysis of white shark jaw mechanics: how hard can a great white bite?”

                  Wroe et al also stated this:

                  “The relationship between muscle force (a function of area) and bodymass (a function of volume) is negatively allometric and described by a two-thirds power rule. For most taxa, including sharks, this holds true for bite force (Huber et al., 2005). Our estimates for bite force in larger specimens of Carcharodon assume that bite force increases at 0.67 the power of body mass relative to the modeled specimen.”

                  Again! Some powerful logics are in works behind these statements.

                  Here is a useful hint:

                  “The very large and robust teeth of C. megalodon indicate that the megatooth jaws, in order to functionally support such a massive dentition, would have been even more strongly developed then those of the white shark, which possesses a formidable but somewhat gracile dentition. In addition, C. carcharias jaws become more robust ontogenetically as the shark grows larger.” (Gottfried et al, 1996)

                  Statement quoted from scientific paper titled “The Size and Skeletal Anatomy of the extinct Giant Megatooth shark.”

                  In simple terms, Megalodon had a considerably larger jaw, which provided more room for jaw muscles then in white shark. And Megalodon jaw was also more robust. This kind of jaw structure would guarantee a very powerful bite. And this is a scientific fact.

                  Even if we consider fossil evidence;

                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEFefSVX-m0

                  This video clip explains it all.

                  Your comment: “On the other hand, with Predator X, they actually have a fossil of the animal, can actually see where tendons and muscles connected, and could make bio-mechanical test and experiments based on a physical reality, not a possibility, as with some supposed super-Meg. The 33,000 lbf thus has, for me, a lot more scientific credibility that just claiming that Meg “must” have had a 6 to 10 times stronger bit than a great white. Even if this “6 to 10” was based on some statistical formula, we have nothing that can tell us which end of the scale is more “likely” or even possible. Add to this the fact that Meg was more closely related to makos than great whites, and it further diminishes the credibility of the supposed range.”

                  Computerized models are just as good predictors as physical models. In-fact, Scientists make many physical inventions on the basis of simulated computerized models.

                  Also, it is not difficult for shark experts to determine the schematics of the skeleton of a fossil shark once they have sufficient data to use. Scientists have already accomplished the task of reconstructing the entire skeleton of Megalodon:

                  http://web.me.com/dooleyclan/Site_2/Blog/Entries/2008/10/1_Calvert_Marine_Museum.html

                  The scientific paper titled “Size and skeletal anatomy of the giant megatooth shark Carcharodon megalodon.” contains massive details of how the schematics of the Megalodon’s skeleton were determined.

                  • Hello, my friend. Thanks for the further research and evidence you’ve provided. I only had a chance to look at it very quickly so far, and a lot of it seems rather repetitive of the earlier reply, but I thought I’d let it post because you provide readers with so much good information on the great beast, Megalodon. As I said before, it will take me a while to look into all of this and analyze your assumptions, rationales, and logic, but I promise to do so as soon as I can. You’ve obviously spent hours of time and effort in rebutting my initial article, and I’m delighted that someone cares enough about the science to do so. My hats off to you, regardless of what I finally come to think about your arguments.

                    With all best wishes,
                    Steve

  2. Scott M says:

    The artists’ depiction of Predator X isn’t correct in regards to the animal’s teeth. They’re far too large in the drawing. While the fossil teeth were 12″ to 15″ long, the crown height would have been a fraction of this length, with two-thirds of tooth being embedded in the skull. So realistically, the C.H. would be 5″ max, equal to the crown height of a max-sized megalodon tooth.

    • Scott, thanks for your comments. Almost all of these artist depictions, whether or Meg or pliosaurs, tend to take “artist license.” The depiction of the ancient “moby dick” sperm whale is the most egregious of all. You make a good point about crown height; what you say makes sense. When I get some time, I’ll see what the Predator X paleontologists might have said about this. Appreciate your comments and that you stopped by!

      Steve

  3. Scott M says:

    Steve,

    Hi again! A few more thoughts on megalodon & predator X- first, I think that Randall’s estimate of megalodon’s size (43 feet) is much more realistic than many of the more recent (and larger) estimates- I used to own a 2 9/16″ principal tooth from a 16 foot, 3400 lb. female GW, which was caught by Clive Green in 1976, off Albany, W. Australia. You can see photos of this fish and the tooth at Henry Mollet’s site (scroll almost halfway down the page at the following link, if you’re interested)

    http://homepage.mac.com/mollet/Cc/Cc_list.html

    …the crown height of that tooth measured just under 2″, and since we know that the shark was in the 16 foot range, it’s simple to extrapolate the size of a shark with a 7″+ tooth, and a 5″ crown height. Here’s my formula-
    16 (foot GW) divided by 2 (inch C.H.) = 8.
    (or, 8 x 2 = 16) substitute the larger shark’s crown height (5″) and the equation is 8 x 5 = 40. Clive Green’s shark did have unusually large teeth though,and Clive told me over the phone that he’s seen larger sharks with smaller teeth. But even if we change the GW’s length to 18 feet in the formula, the estimate is similar to Randall’s: 18 divided by 2 = 9. (9 x 2 = 18 for modern GW) and 9 x 5 = 45 feet for megalodon. The extinct species’ weight is more problematic. I’ve read that if you double an animal’s linear dimensions, it’s weight increases by a factor of ten. However, many large marine creatures in the 40 foot plus range tend to be built more streamlined, (proportionately) than a great white shark. Look at the build of a whale shark, or some of the larger whales- they’re not as robust as some GW’s, because this would likely cause too much drag on such a massive animal. So, I believe that a megalodon’s weight would most likely be just over the weight of today’s largest whale sharks. That being said, if we accept that 45 feet is the maximum size of megalodon, and predator x was just under 50 feet, I would guess that the winner in a virtual encounter between the two is simple- whichever animal bites first wins. Both animals were almost certainly ambush predators, relying on the element of surprise, probably attacking from beneath their prey, just as modern GWs today. Both animals would probably have been able remove between 500 and 1000 pounds or more of flesh in a single bite. It’s easy to envision a 45 foot meg crushing the ribs and puncturing the lungs of P.X, or of predator X biting off meg’s tail fin or ripping through meg’s gills. Add the extinct whale, Leviathan, into the mix, and I’d say that one on one, the edge would likely go to both predator X and megalodon over the whale, however, if the whale traveled in large groups, there is strength in numbers, and it’s easy to envision a pod of Leviathan whales working together to attack and kill a megalodon or predator x. Thanks again for your time!

    • TBA says:

      Hello Scott,

      REGARDING SIZE:

      Your views are interesting. However, when it comes to estimating the size of sharks, certain complexities are often ignored.

      When the size of a shark is estimated on the basis of a certain characteristic of its teeth, it is important to verify its degree of correlation with total body length in the shark.

      To date, several methods have been proposed to estimate the size of a shark. The quality of research behind a method actually determines its credibility.

      Randall proposed several methods to determine the size of a shark:

      One method is shark bite – body length relationship. Jones et al questioned the reliability of this method and pointed out that it could provide exaggerated estimations. (1)
      Another method is tooth enamel height – body length relationship. He found a correlation between enamel height of largest upper anterior tooth and total length in white sharks. The correlation projects 0.96 confidence band. However, his sampling consisted of small specimens. Adult specimens were not considered.(1)

      Some experts argued that tooth size may reach an upper limit in white sharks and may not accurately reflect size and age.(1) If this is the case, than using crown height for size estimation can also be problematic because enamel height is measured on the basis of crown height but in perpendicular fashion.

      Some experts have proposed that it is safer to use tooth maximum height for size estimation purposes.(1)

      Now, off-course! One specimen is not good enough for size estimation purposes. It would present a biased result.
      One solution can work in the light of these issues;
      Large sample size of sharks (of same species) should be considered (comprising of juveniles and adults). Data of upper anterior tooth sizes (from all aspects) and body lengths be collected and then tested for correlation. Once the best possible correlation is found, it should represent an average relationship, which would be safest to use.

      For example:
      - Guess work commences -

      Specimen 1:

      TL = 17 ft
      UAMH = 2 inch
      R = 2 – 17

      Specimen 2:

      TL = 20 ft
      UAMH = 2 inch
      R = 2 – 20

      Specimen 3:

      TL = 16 ft
      UAMH = 2 inch
      R = 2 – 16

      Now;

      Average R = 2 – 17.6
      - Guess work ends –

      Gottfried et al understood these issues and proposed a shark size estimation method via very comprehensive research.(1) That team collected data from 73 white shark specimens (ranging from 129 – 600 cm TL). They found a strong correlation between UA2H and total length in white sharks. They also understood that 0.96 confidence band is not always applicable so they proposed a reduction of 0.22 confidence band.

      Their method is: TL (m) = -0.22 + 0.096 (UA2H in mm)

      It can also be interpreted as: TL (m) = -0.22 + 0.96 (UA2H in cm)

      They measured the tooth height like this: a vertical line from the tip of the crown to the bottom of the lobes of the root, parallel to the long axis of the tooth. (1)
      Dr. Clifford Jeremiah also proposed a method to estimate the size of shark. Instead of using tooth height, he proposed using root width of the largest upper anterior tooth.

      If I am asked to estimate the size of a shark, I will go for the method which has been proposed on the basis of a very comprehensive research just to be safe. I would advise you to do this as well.

      (1) in Great white sharks: the biology of Carcharodon carcharias.

      REGARDING WEIGHT:

      When a shark grows larger, its mass increases exponentially and not in linear manner. And most sharks have streamlined bodies. They need such bodies because they glide and do not have swimming bladders.

      Have a look at this whale shark:

      It is one of the largest individuals ever witnessed. It is very robust and yet it has a streamlined body. I won’t be surprised if it weighs more than 30,000 kg.

      Also, gigantic mass would not be hindered by drag as long as the animal has cruising body form. An animal with cruising body form generates propulsion by lift rather than drag. In addition, cruising animals displace a fraction of their weight when swimming. They rely on increasing speed rather than the mass of the water over the tail.(2)

      Large whales are very heavy and yet they are not hindered by drag and can swim fast because they have a cruising body form.(2)

      (2) in Megalodon: Hunting the Hunter.

      REGARDING ATTACKING STRATEGIES:

      I agree that Megalodon might have attacked prey in similar manner to white shark. However, this is not a gospel approach.

      As per fossil evidence, Megalodon attacked even those body regions of prey where a great white wouldn’t bite.

      Watch this video:

      http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/prehistoric-washington-dc-mega-shark.html

      PHYSICAL POWER:

      Large sharks are very strong animals. There are cases of whale sharks surviving harpoons and predatory attempts from potential enemies.

      Here is a case of white sharks:

      Our first encounter with a 14-foot male white shark complete with “shredded” dorsal fin and several deep bite marks on his head happened at 7.00am. He came in fast from the left, our first sight was of his mangled dorsal fin slicing through the surface toward our hang baits (tuna). He hit the first one with an unexpected fury, then turned and zeroed in on the second hang bait missing it and disappearing into the blue distance. Closer inspection of this deeply scarred shark revealed his entire left eye was milky; it had been damaged in the encounter with a larger more aggressive shark in years past. These impressive wounds should have killed this animal. But apex predators, such as this one, can sustain a lot of physical damage as we discovered later in the season with Chompers, Top Notch and Split Fin, not to mention Maximus, who was missing clearly one-third of his tail to a very recent bite.(3)

      (3) in Mexico’s Great White Sharks (2003 Trip Report)

      If these sharks could sustain considerable biting damage, one can only wonder that how much power Megalodon would have packed as an adult.

      It actually makes sense, since Megalodon lived in a highly competitive environment and occupied top predatory niche.

      Surprisingly, Megalodon was actually abundant in regions where large odontocetes lurked during Miocene and Pliocene. In present times, white sharks do not seem to lurk in Orca infested waters because they perhaps cannot compete with them. In addition, R. Purdy noted that white sharks generally avoided regions abundant with Megalodon. Only a very powerful and dominant predator could make impacts like these.

      Also, I agree that there is strength in numbers but numbers do not always work. There are cases of failed predation attempts of Lion prides against single adult hippos and elephants.

      Megalodon competed with raptorial predators for a very long time. It certainly would have developed a strategy to deal with them.

      In Peru, where fossils of Leviathan have been found – Megalodon was also abundant. Here is evidence:

      http://gailharrington.net/jurassicshark.aspx

      And paleontologist Steve A. Alter pointed out to me (via personal communication) that he has seen bite wounds by Megalodon on remains of sperm whales:

      “The bones from Sperm Whale and Baleen Whale are very similar I think but there are so many that it is definitely both species. I have even seen bite marks on the roots of Sperm Whale teeth so that is 100% evidence.”

      In modern times, orcas are able to tackle large animals because they are not a threat to them. However, Megalodon would be too dangerous.

      Some experts suggest that Megalodon was arguably the most formidable carnivore ever to have existed.

      Regarding Predator X; It certainly would have been a formidable predator. However, does it have prey specific and competitive credentials matching those of Megalodon?

      • Hey, my friend. Just wanted to let you know I haven’t forgotten your and your arguments for your beloved Meg. I will get back to you, I promise, when my workload permits

        All the best,

        Steve

    • Scott, you’ve added a a great comment to this thread; my apologies for taking so long to get back to you. I’ve been flat-out with a freelance writing project, and was just swamped. I’ve got a brief window of opportunity here, and then I have another block of writing ahead of me. This is frustrating to me, because among other things, I want to address TBA’s excellent (and voluminous! lol!) responses in the way they deserve.

      I think that you and I are much closer together in our assessment of max size of Meg than our friend TBA, and I like your reasoning and the facts you marshal for them, of course. It was fun to see that Henry Mollet’s website and see your tooth…whoa, what a tooth! It’s hard to fathom just how big a 16 to 20 foot great white is, even seeing some photos. In the the water, it would be like seeing the end of the world. I can only imagine the atavistic horror of seeing one in the water in a shark cage, like folks do in Australia when they see 16 to 20 footers off the Great Barrier Reef. (Though sadly, I read recently that the really big sharks off the GBR seems to becoming very scarce. I hope they’ve migrated and weren’t killed.)

      You make some good points about size, too. Bigger is not always better; speed and mobility and other factors come into play for making a predator a success, and we know that predators change size and other aspects as their prey change. But more on that later. Yes, I think that when you are talking about the jaws of either Meg or Pedator X, first bite wins. (Which is why, by the way, in fantasy encounters, when old T-Rex gets the first bite in its encounter with Spinosaurus in the Jurassic Park sequel, that’s all she wrote, folks. The Spiny isn’t going to survive that pit bull bite, even if a larger beast. And while doing research on another giant predator for a science book, I got to talk to a paleontologist about Giganotosaurus, a somewhat bigger Southern predator (hence, it’s name) than our biggest T-rex specimen, Sue.

      Gigo’s teeth were formidable, but more made for tearing flesh, he said, while T-rex’s seem much better suited for bone-crunching. He said that while either’s bite would have been horrendous and lethal, that the teeth of T-rex where bigger and thicker, but the most important point was that the T-rex had much bigger and more powerful jaw muscles (for bone crunching, no doubt) and that comparing the two predators was like comparing a regular dog with a pit bull. I took pleasure in thinking that the T-rex, my childhood fascination, was still the baddest dino! lol!

      But, in a fight, first bite wins, I’d say, which was probably why (as many paleontologists surmise), male T-rexs probably didn’t bite each other in courting battles. Too dangerous.

      If the Leviathan was as brainy as today’s toothed whales, and if worse (for prey) they hunted in packs, there would be nothing that’s ever lived in the sea that could deal with them. You could have a 100 foot Meg, and it’d be dead meat if a brainy group of what would have been super orcas took one on. Even in modern times, orca take out great whites (I recently saw a video of this; the shark never had a chance), and in the immortal words Mr. T, “pity the fool” great white that attacks a young orca in a pod.

      That’s all I have time for now, but its’ fun shootin’ the breeze with you and thinking about such amazing creatures—creatures that actually lived!

      I’ll try to get to your other message and post later, and TBA’s too, when I get a break.

      Best wishes,
      Steve

      • TBA says:

        Hello Steven,

        Just wanted to point few things;

        Your comments: “I think that you and I are much closer together in our assessment of max size of Meg than our friend TBA, and I like your reasoning and the facts you marshal for them, of course. It was fun to see that Henry Mollet’s website and see your tooth…whoa, what a tooth! It’s hard to fathom just how big a 16 to 20 foot great white is, even seeing some photos. In the the water, it would be like seeing the end of the world. I can only imagine the atavistic horror of seeing one in the water in a shark cage, like folks do in Australia when they see 16 to 20 footers off the Great Barrier Reef. (Though sadly, I read recently that the really big sharks off the GBR seems to becoming very scarce. I hope they’ve migrated and weren’t killed.)”

        I have already addressed this case. Relying upon just one specimen will give you a biased result. Point is that what is true for one specimen may not be true for other specimen. The complexity of variation among specimens should not be ignored when it comes to size estimation of animals. Also, never blindly trust photographic analysis for these cases. For more details, see my responses to Scott.

        And teeth are not everything. Ever thought of considering the proportions of vertebral column in Megalodon?

        Megalodon vertebrae up to 23 cm in diameter have been found to date (examples from Denmark). By comparison, the largest known White shark vertebrae are within 8 – 9 cm in diameter. And since cartilage does not fossilizes properly, possibility of occurrence of largest possible fossils will always be vague in Megalodon’s case. Also, shark experts have revealed that Megalodon likely had 200+ vertebra in its spinal column. By comparison, great white has 170 – 180 vertebra in its spinal column. So TS – BL correlations in Megalodon could be more liberal than in white sharks. However, this is a relatively poorly explored case.

        Your comments: “If the Leviathan was as brainy as today’s toothed whales, and if worse (for prey) they hunted in packs, there would be nothing that’s ever lived in the sea that could deal with them. You could have a 100 foot Meg, and it’d be dead meat if a brainy group of what would have been super orcas took one on. Even in modern times, orca take out great whites (I recently saw a video of this; the shark never had a chance), and in the immortal words Mr. T, “pity the fool” great white that attacks a young orca in a pod.”

        This is why I always advice caution when talking about prehistoric scenarios.

        Do you know that Leviathan and Megalodon had co-existed even in same regions during Miocene? How was this possible?

        Read this article:

        http://gailharrington.net/jurassicshark.aspx

        Peruvian desert is the same region where fossil remains of Leviathan have been found.

        Megalodon certainly possessed incredible size, power, and just right level of intelligence to pull off such a feat.

        Great whites avoid direct competition with Orcas because they lack in capabilities. However, Megalodon actively competed with all known raptorial macro-predators in its time of existence.

        And Robert Purdy revealed through his massive survey of fossil records that Great whites specially avoided regions inhabited by Megalodon.(1)

        (1) Paleoecology of fossil white sharks.

        • Dude, chill. I’ll get back to your arguments when I have time. I’ve been very gracious giving you tons of space here with your continuous self-repetition of earlier points.

          I wasn’t asserting any science with my speculations or claiming (or assuming) that Leviathan and Meg lived at the same time. I was having fun speculating a scenario. I’m a science writer and I know the difference, OK? And I still pity the fool great white shark that would try to attack a young orca.

          You are getting too serious dude. I appreciate your zeal, but back off a bit, OK?

          Steve

          • TBA says:

            Steven,

            You misunderstood my intentions. I am just pointing out the issues in presented points here. Is it wrong to do this?

            Let us keep in mind that you are making rankings here. Others are not.

            Megalodon was contemporaneous with Leviathan in same regions. And guess what? Levithan became extinct a lot earlier.

            • TBA says:

              Also, take your time. Think cool and than come up with responses. No body is in hurry here.

              Regards,
              TBA

              • TBA, there’s nothing wrong with pointing out issues; I guess we can all come across differently than we think. I found your remarks, tone, pushy and relentless unhumorous, frankly, but I hear you say you were just trying to make points. Anyway, you had a beef with me, initially, thinking I was hammering you, when in fact, I wasn’t’ and actually found your remarks a great reason to do more on the subject.

                I will get back to this fascinating subject. Rebutting you is now a point of honor, sir! LOL! Keep cool.

                Steve

    • TBA says:

      Hello Scott M,

      Here is some data on TS – BL statistics of some very large white sharks:

      TL of shark = 7.01 m
      UA1H = 55.5 mm

      TL of shark = 6.04 m
      UA1H = 57 mm

      TL of shark = 6.01 m
      UA1H = 59 mm

      TL of shark = 5.67 – 6.00 m
      UA1H = 62 mm

      TL of shark = 5.9 m
      UA1H = 63 mm

      TL of shark = 5.7 m
      UA1H = 56 mm

      TL of shark = 5.6 m
      UA1H = 61 mm

      TL of shark = 5.5 m
      UA1H = 60 mm

      TL of shark = 5.5 m
      UA1H = 49.5 mm

      Do you see the variation? This is why I caution against using one specimen to estimate the size of a prehistoric shark.

      Furthermore, I have hinted on the size of vertebra (another well known fossil from sharks) in one of my replies to Steve.

      From the existing, we have comparative ratios like this:

      230 mm – [higher estimations exist] vs 80 – 90 mm (for vertebra)

      180 – 190 mm vs 60 – 80 mm (for teeth)

      200+ vs 170 – 180 (quantity of vertebra in spinal column)

      Most logical assessment is that Megalodon was at least 2.5 – 3.5 times longer than a very large white shark.

  4. Scott M says:

    Steve,

    A few more random thoughts on this subject! I’ve spent many years and many thousands of dollars in pursuit of the world’s largest modern GW tooth (I sold the Clive Green tooth which I mentioned in my previous post, but I now have a slightly larger tooth, that measures 2.7″) The largest modern GW teeth I’ve tracked down have measured just over 2.75″, with one questionable 2.8″ tooth. I personally do not believe that modern GWs grow to much over 18 feet, with the vast majority of those caught being in the 16′-18′ range, despite numerous claims by fishermen of 20+ footers. (Many of these claims have been disproven by photo experts, including the alleged 23.5′ Malta GW, which was revealed to have been no more than 18′.) The largest fossil GW tooth, from Chile, measured 3.5″, so I believe that ancient GWs did grow to almost “Jaws” like proportions at one time. Anyone who bases their estimates of megalodon on these alleged 20+ foot GWs are almost certainly in error. One other thought I wanted to share is regarding the bite power of megalodon & predator x. I remember seeing a TV show on bite force, where a 12′ GWs bite power was tested, and it was only in the 600 pound range. The bite itself wasn’t of the aggressive, destructive type of bite, more like a curious, “test it to see if it’s edible” type of bite, and the shark was nowhere near as large as the largest GWs, (in the 16′to 18′+ range, and weighing over 4000 lbs.) so there’s no reliable bite force data from large living sharks to go on, but I believe that based on tooth design, GWs don’t need tremendous jaw power to kill their prey- they generate enough forces from bodyweight & motion to slice through their prey. Megalodon’s teeth were proportionately more robust than a GW, so they were built to withstand & deliver much more force, but I would guess that predator x, with it’s crocodile-like teeth and jaws, was indeed the more powerful biter in terms of sheer jaw power. Today’s saltwater croc has a bite force in the 5000 pound range- so it’s jaw power is much greater than a GWs, however, due to the shark’s tooth design, the shark is more efficient at delivering a huge, destructive wound, whereas croc’s teeth are designed for holding a struggling animal until it drowns. Not sure if this helps in the debate, though!

    • TBA says:

      Hello Scott,

      I agree that white sharks in ancient times might have attained JAWS like proportions. Teeth within 3 inch range indicate as such.

      Here is one example:

      http://www.buriedtreasurefossils.com/chile_great_white_-_xl_size.htm

      As far as photographic analysis is concerned, I find it less appealing. Reason is that dimensions of photos can be changed easily (stretching, condensing etc.). In additon, photo angles can also be problematic.

      Two of the largest specimens ever caught (designated as MALTA and KANGA) have been claimed to be within 7 m TL range. However, not all agreed with these claims. Some used Randall’s methods to disapprove these claims while some photo analysis.

      However, Mollet et al have conducted most comprehensive research to address these cases:

      http://homepage.mac.com/mollet/Cc/Mollet%20et%20al%201996.pdf

      This team reached a conclusion that 7 m TL claims for these specimens cannot be rejected.

      As far as bite force of very large great white sharks is concerned;

      Have a look at the damage done to this 3.5 m white shark by an alleged 6 m great white:

      http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/monster-shark-bites-great-white-in-half/story-e6frg12c-1225791592832

      How much jaw power do you think was required to do this kind of damage? I think it would be enormous.

      • Scott M says:

        I’d guess the jaw power wouldn’t be as great as you think-
        there are a lot of forces involved in a GWs bite, but I tend to believe that jaw muscles don’t account for much in a GWs bite- (certainly nowhere near as much as that of a croc) I believe that the GWs teeth are so well designed for tearing through flesh, that when the shark bites down on it’s prey and thrashes it’s head and body from side to side, the sharks bodyweight and physical strength work in similar fashion as a person applying pressure to a steak knife. Tooth design and the forces applied from the shark’s movement & weight are key here, not the muscles of the jaw.

        • Scott, quick reply. Exactly so. I’l have to find the source, but I recall reading somewhere that the gw’s actual bite power is about the same bite force as a human’s, but that the pressure deliverable by the thrashing and the weight of the shark was indeed formidable in terms of shear pressures. Another thing I want to look into before I reply to TBA. But my initial sense is that you are probably right, though TBA will no doubt want to challenge the Predator X/croc analogy, given what’s he’s said before.

          More later,
          Steve

          • Scott M says:

            Steve,

            If you have time, email me. I’m a very talented artist, and I’m considering writing and illustrating a book for children. No hurry, though, whenever you have a break from work!

  5. Scott M says:

    Steve,

    After the discovery of Predator X, I contacted Vertebrate Paleontologist Colin MecHenry to ask for any insights he might have on the find. Here was his reponse (from an email dated 5/14/09) His comments on the size of Predator X compared to the “Cumnor Monster” were interesting:

    ************************************************************

    Until there’s a scientific paper published it’s all just rumour and heresay, but from the pictures that Jorn’s team have shown it looks like a very big animal. So, yes, there seems to be reason to think that the Svalbard pliosaur may be the largest pliosaur we know about so far. However, I’m going to stop shy of saying it is definitely the biggest for the moment, as there are a couple of funny things about it; the humerus is really big, compared to other large pliosaurs, but the vertebrae are really not that large. Same deal with the skull – some of the jaw fragments look like they are from a really big animal, whilst part of the back of the skull is not really that large by comparison. And that, of course, is the problem with trying to work out body shape and size from fragmentary material. Jorn has a PhD student working on this and he has an interesting puzzle on his hands.

    There are various other pliosaur specimens that indicate very large (>10 m) pliosaurs, but they are also all fragmentary and we still have a very poor idea of how big they were, and even what species they represent. Like the Svalbard animal (Tithonian – uppermost Jurassic) they are all Late Jurassic; Megalneusaurus rex (Knight 1895, 1897) is from the Oxfordian of Wyoming (Wahl et al, 2007) but it’s very bitty, and the Aramberri specimen (Buchy et al, 2003) is from the Kimmeridgian of Mexico and is even more fragmentary. There are also some large fragments of pliosaurid from the Kimmerdigian of England. There are also some specimens from the Callovian (Middle Jurassic) of the English Oxford Clay; one is a robust mandibular symphysis, the other a vertebrae that was originally IDed as a sauropod (and I suspect that original ID is the correct one). However, I have yet to see any convincing evidence that any of these indicate a pliosaur bigger than the Cumnor pliosaur (Noe et al. 2004), known from an almost complete jaw from the Kimmeridgian of England and on display at the Oxford University Museum (see blog entry at Tetrapod Zoology; http://scienceblogs.com/tetrapodzoology/2007/12/cumnor_monster_mandible.php ), which is a very large animal. It remains to be seen whether the Svalbard material can confidently be said to indicate a larger pliosaur than the ‘Cumnor monster’.

    Given that most of what has been said about the big Late Jurassic is pure speculation, it is unfortunate that Liopleurodon ferox has been caught up in the public/media discussions of these animals. Unlike the really big animals, Liopleurodon is known from a large number of specimens, many of which are reasonably complete, and its anatomy and body size is well understood – it is a medium sized pliosaur with a maximum size of 5-6 metres. It is also known only from the Callovian, so it is stratigraphically too old to be the animal represented by the scrappy Late Jurassic specimens. With respect to the two possible specimens of very large pliosaur that are known from the Callovian, whatever the fragment of large jaw and the isolated vertebrae are, they are not Liopleurodon. The fixation with Liopleurodon as a really big pliosaur seems to have come from two sources; firstly, the Godzilliaisation of Liopleurodon in Walking With Dinosaurs to a 25 metre monster (a size far larger than any reasonable reconstruction of any known pliosaur specimen), and the confusion by the media of the Aramberri speicmen with L. ferox – the Arramberri specimen is not Liopleurodon, as repeatedly stated by the authors of that study. Oh well, that’s the media for you.

    Hope this helps. There are a couple of useful links that discuss aspects of this; Cameron McCormick’s excellent blog http://cameronmccormick.blogspot.com/2007_02_01_archive.html ,

    and on Richard Forrest’s plesiosaur site
    http://www.plesiosaur.com/plesiosaurs/liopleurodon.php

    Cheers
    Colin

  6. Ted says:

    Actually, it seems that Predator X was no more than 40 feet long and around 12-20 tons in body mass ( source : Patrick Druckenmiller, involved in the discovery of the animal).

    In many aspect the Dorset pliosaur recently reconstructed is way larger.

    The Teeth can be 30 cm long ? Big deal ! Since just one third of it was actually blade, so weapon.

    No known pliosaur seems bigger predator than C.megalodon to date. Even at similar lenght, pliosaurs seem more gracile compared to a giant steroided great white.

    The most conservative estimate of Megalodon, actually outdated, places it at the upper estimates for the largest pliosaurs.

    Today, we have STRONG indications, some still unpublished that C.megalodon approached 65 feet body lenght. And if we have confirmation that it was truly a gigantic more muscular version of C.carcharias, I Will see no reason to no place C.megalodon as the most powerful predator that ever lived.

  7. Freeman says:

    Great article :-) I like to think than these so-called “extinct” species are still lurking in the very vast depth of oceans.
    After all, we just explored no more than 1% of the oceans and seas, so everything’s possible… Megalodons larger than 50-60 feets, living “leviathan” sperm whales, etc… Everything’s possible since we do not have any undebatable evidence, neither about their full exctintion nor their supposed survival.

    ———-
    Nota :
    ” Today’s great white sharks and killer whales are, after humans, top predator of the seas”
    I don’t really agree. In fact, humains are THOUGHT to be top predators because we have something called “technology” (tools, machines, etc…). And this “technology” is not really “natural” by itself.
    If we’d put every living species to the same level, removing “technology” from humans, there’s no doubt humans would just be a small part of the food chain, and certainly not at the top but more at the bottom ;-)

  8. xawx9 says:

    Good reading the two blokes above debating the what-whats of C Megalodon, Predator X and the prehistoric “Moby Dick”. Good for you if you two even believe what a Dunkleosteus actually look like. Just don’t make a probability of what a Megalodon could have looked like, k? Like Dunkle, Megal’s body size, weight and physical shape is still a mystery for us. I don’t care what Wiki thinks or any researchers say what Megal looked like based on a jaw with teeth. Let’s take a look at two cousins, Albertosaurus and T.Rex. Now, Albertosaurus is the smaller of the two but we can be mistaken that its physical shape and head is identical to that of T.Rex. Let’s blow up Albert’s physical shape to the same size as Rex’s and what we see out of place is that the teeth of Albert will still be smaller than Rex’s. So therefore blowing up a Great White Shark’s teeth and jaw to the size of Megalodon’s to determine how big is Megal’s body size, weight or physical shape just don’t cut it. The Researchers must accept an overwhelming inaccuracy and not implant false “That’s gotta be it!” stuff in our minds.

  9. VFTYFBYFRFY says:

    I prefer Predator X!!!!!!!!

  10. Titanoboa says:

    Megalodon crushes Predator X. Meg was 67 feet long and weighed 114 short tons.

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