Megalodons Were 'Highest Level' Apex Predators, According to a New Analysis of Fearsome Teeth

Megalodons Were 'Highest Level' Apex Predators, According to a New Analysis of Fearsome Teeth ...

The terrifying megalodon was the largest shark ever to be found, possibly growing up to 20 meters (66 feet) in length, and had teeth the size of a human hand. New research reveals that the megalodon was the most apex predator.

Scientists can ascertain where a creature was in the food chain by studying the levels of nitrogen isotopes present in cells. Because of the way nitrogen is processed and excreted, nitrogen-15 builds up the higher you go in the food chain.

The enamel on the megalodon(Otodus megalodon) teeth reveals high levels of nitrogen-15 and a position at the very top of the food chain. The megalodon lived from around 23 million years ago to about 3.6 million years ago.

"We're used to thinking of blue whales, whale sharks, elephants, and diplodocuses as filter feeders or herbivores, not predators," says biogeochemist Emma Kast from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

"But megalodon and the other megatooth sharks were really huge carnivores that ate other predators, and the meg went extinct only a few million years ago."

Shark skeletons are made from cartilage, so their teeth are the only way to establish a picture of these animals and how they lived. Fortunately for paleontologists, sharks produce thousands of teeth as they age.

Researchers can get the nitrogen readings by stucking tiny organic matter particles into the enamel of the teeth. Using dentist drills, cleaning agents, and microbes to convert the nitrogen into nitrous oxide, the measurements can be made.

The team needed a custom-made nitrous oxide extraction apparatus, as well as a detailed review of modern-day marine mammals' nitrogen readings, which allowed them to contextualize their megalodon findings.

In the analysis, a megalodon tooth was used. (Harry Maisch)

Scientists refer to the trophic levels as the layers of the food chain, and the marine food webs as much as the basic plant, herbivore, and prey system we're familiar with, especially when the marine ones begin with smaller organisms (phytoplankton, rather than large plants).

There were also additional trophic levels at the top, according to this teeth analysis of the megalodon and other giant ancient sharks.

"If megalodon existed in the modern ocean, it would fundamentally change humans' interactions with the marine environment," according to Princeton University in New Jersey.

According to the researchers, the giant shark would have eaten basically anything it desired: predators, and even predators-of-predators. They most likely ate whales and other megalodons.

If you've seen the 2018 film The Meg, you may have an idea of the sheer size of these sharks. One crucial question that the research fails to answer is why such a dominant predator went extinct. The assumption is that another species of shark eventually outperformed the megalodon.

The team studied teeth gathered from the ocean floor as well as previously collected samples. The researchers then want to test their chemical analysis software on other animals, including mammals and dinosaurs.

"Our tool has the ability to decipher ancient food webs," says Kast. "What we need now are samples... we could do the same nitrogen isotope analysis and compile the whole story of an ancient ecosystem."

The study has been published in Science Advances.

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