Megalodons, scientifically known as Otodus megalodon, are giant sharks that grew to 50 feet in length and roamed the oceans 15 million to 3.6 million years ago, said study author Kenshu Shimada, a professor of paleobiology at DePaul University in Chicago.
The 6.6-foot measurement is fairly accurate and consistent with other findings in megalodon nurseries in Panama and Spain, said Jack Cooper, a fossil shark researcher and PhD student in the Department of Biology at Swansea University in Wales, UK, who did not participates in a study.
The study is important because there is not much research on the reproduction of megalodon, he said.
To find the length of the animal at birth, the researchers examined a CT scan of the vertebrae of the megalodon, first discovered in Belgium in the 1
The specimen was thought to be 46 years old when he died, so Shimada counted the growth bands back to the birth ring and calculated the length of the animal at birth. This particular shark is estimated to be about 30 feet long at death.
These extinct sea creatures have not grown so large in the womb of luck.
As they grow in their mother, megalodones will eat other unhatched eggs, known as intrauterine cannibalism.
“The consequence of egg-eating behavior is that only a few pups will survive and develop, but each can become significantly larger at birth,” Shimada said.
Their large size at birth reduces the chances of baby megalodones being eaten by other predators.
Some modern sharks, which are part of the Lamniformes order – the same one to which megalodons belong – also practice this behavior.
Sand tiger sharks eat other unhatched eggs in the womb, and Shimada said they sometimes eat other hatched siblings.
It takes a lot of energy from female sand tiger sharks to raise such large babies, but like the megalodon, this evolutionary strategy reduces the chances of them being eaten after birth.
It is still very unknown about the giant shark, said Shimada, who wants to find out more. He became interested in the megalodon at the age of 13 when he found a 2-inch megalodon tooth on a geological site outside Tokyo.
While this study reveals much about the birth of megalodon, the specimen was only 46 years old, which is the average age for this animal.
Shimada hopes to study the shark’s later years, which are estimated to be between 88 and 100 years old, to learn its growth pattern.