A Shark Check
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Artistic depictions and recent popular culture have described the megalodon shark as a leviathan-sized predator that terrorized Earth’s oceans tens of millions of years ago.
Co-author Mikael Siversson and his team highlighted discrepancies between the commonly accepted portrayal of megalodons and the actual evidence gleaned from fossilized remains.
Because the ancient predator’s skeletal remains are made of cartilage there are scarcely any fossilized parts – except for a few vertebrae and their teeth – the latter about the size of an adult human hand.
The only way scientists could estimate the creature’s size and shape is based on comparisons with living sharks, such as the great white, the team explained.
For their research, they focused on a fossilized vertebral column discovered in Belgium, which provided valuable insights into the ancient shark’s anatomy.
Using measurements from the spinal column and comparing them with data from great white sharks, researchers proposed that the megalodon’s size was around a little more than 30 feet. However, the actual length of the spinal column, measuring more than 36 feet, suggested that the extinct animal was likely longer and slenderer than the stockier great whites.
Still, Siversson cautioned that the findings don’t reveal anything about other anatomical parts, such as the fins or tail.
“Going forward, any meaningful discussion on the anatomy of this shark other than the size and robustness of the jaws would require the discovery of more-or-less complete skeletons,” he added.
Correction: In Monday’s DISCOVERIES section, we said in our “State of Tun” item that scientists exposed tardigrades to high levels of oxygen peroxide. It is in fact hydrogen peroxide. We apologize for the error.