The giant shark Megalodon, which has been extinct for roughly 3 million years, returns in the summer blockbuster “The Meg” to terrorize beachgoers and scientists.
Could Megalodon still be lurking in the deep, as the movie suggests?
Shedd Aquarium shark expert Steve Kessel says there is no chance of that – but it did once exist. Megalodon was roughly 50-60 feet long and believed to have been similar to the great white shark; a “tenacious predator,” according to Kessel. The fossil record is largely limited to teeth, he says, because sharks have no bones – just cartilage. But paleontologists are able to extrapolate from those teeth by comparing them to living sharks.
Megalodon was widely distributed in tropical and subtropical waters, but only in shallow waters near the coasts. If they were living there today there would be plenty of evidence (not to mention attacks on people and small boats). Could they have evolved to survive in deeper waters and evade us? No, says Kessel. While there are new deep sea creatures discovered each year, they are small. Something the size of Megalodon would have certainly been detected by now.
Kessel joins us in discussion.