Could Megalodon still exist?

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Neuromancer:
Thanks to Husker1911 for finding this.

"Zoological history has proven that very large animals can remain hidden from modern science, especially in our planet's under-explored ocean depths. So if the famous coelacanth can remain undisturbed for 60 million years, why not push our giant white shark up a mere 10,000? Apparently Ellis sees no major problem with that when he writes, "Except that we have not found one, there appears to be no reason why Megalodon should not be flourishing today." Granted, Ellis feels that no concrete evidence has been found for Megalodon's current existence. "But there will always be those who keep hoping that one will appear. Let us hope we are not in the water when it does."

Or has one already appeared? Contained in Ellis's chapter on Megalodon is quite an amazing sighting report from Australia. It is taken from David G. Stead's Sharks and Rays of Australian Seas, published in 1963. Here is the now-classic monster encounter, in Stead's words:

In the year 1918 I recorded the sensation that had been caused among the "outside" crayfish men at Port Stephens, when, for several days, they refused to go to sea to their regular fishing grounds in the vicinity of Broughton Island. The men had been at work on the fishing grounds--which lie in deep water--when an immense shark of almost unbelievable proportions put in an appearance, lifting pot after pot containing many crayfishes, and taking, as the men said, "pots, mooring lines and all." These crayfish pots, it should be mentioned, were about 3 feet 6 inches in diameter and frequently contained from two to three dozen good-sized crayfish each weighing several pounds. The men were all unanimous that this shark was something the like of which they had never dreamed of. In company with the local Fisheries Inspector I questioned many of the men very closely and they all agreed as to the gigantic stature of the beast. But the lengths they gave were, on the whole, absurd. I mention them, however, as an indication of the state of mind which this unusual giant had thrown them into. And bear in mind that these were men who were used to the sea and all sorts of weather, and all sorts of sharks as well. One of the crew said the shark was "three hundred feet long at least"! Others said it was as long as the wharf on which we stood--about 115 feet! They affirmed that the water "boiled" over a large space when the fish swam past. They were all familiar with whales, which they had often seen passing at sea, but this was a vast shark. They had seen its terrible head which was "at least as long as the roof on the wharf shed at Nelson's Bay." Impossible, of course! But these were prosaic and rather stolid men, not given to 'fish stories' nor even to talking about their catches. Further, they knew that the person they were talking to (myself) had heard all the fish stories years before! One of the things that impressed me was that they all agreed as to the ghostly whitish color of the vast fish."(3)

In this popular account, we apparently have credible witnesses, and a knowledgeable investigator, Stead, who believed the fishermen were telling the truth (and that they may have witnessed a living Megalodon). I believe the "fact" that they did not return to sea for days could be added to their credibility, and to their loss in wages after the apparently traumatic experience (unless they were hoaxing the entire event, of course.) We also have some rather strange features in this report, including the tremendous lengths the fishermen reported, if we cannot attribute these to exaggeration due to intense fear. If we cannot, then it seems if Megalodon has survived, it may have grown bigger, and I am not sure which idea is scarier."  The original link to the article has expired.

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This is fake but you get the idea of the size of these sharks.

Spirit_Pony:
Fascinating. If they do exist what are they eating and what happens when their supply runs out?

Neuromancer:
Quote from: Ruffian Feathers on May 12, 2007, 03:50:23 PM

Fascinating. If they do exist what are they eating and what happens when their supply runs out?


If the Megalodon was a mid-depth and deep water species they could be scavenging off some of the larger surface dwelling species that died and had sank to the bottom. I've seen some film of a deep water Arctic shark feeding off of a Grey whale carcass that had done this.

I'm not assuming it is solely a scavenger. It could be a hunter/ scavenger. I'm just proposing the deep and mid level hunter/ scavenger hypothesis as an explanation for the lack of sightings near the surface.

rainesalatte:
Quote from: Ruffian Feathers on May 12, 2007, 03:50:23 PM

Fascinating. If they do exist what are they eating and what happens when their supply runs out?


I believe the Sci-Fi channel has already answered that question...

cedric:
I've always had doubts about this one. From what I understand, megaladon is just a really big great white. The petrified jaws match up nearly perfect to the modern GW. So I have dobts to whether or not there was an actualy megaladon or just really big Great Whites.

Plus, (and I may be completely off on this) I thought GW's were mainly shallow-water feeders living primarily off tuna, mackrel, and seal. They've never been seen or electronically tracked in deep water nor has any evidence of deep water activities been found. True, this may not say much given the limited research thus far, but you have to work with what you've got.

So, if megaladon is actually just a really big GW, isn't it likely that they'd be shallow-water feeders as well? And if so, wouldn't that make it much more likely that we'd have encounered some further evidence of them? Add to this that the areas where megaladon jaws have been found date from times when those areas have been shallow seas. For example, several MD jaws have been found in Florida in sediment layers dating a time when there was shallow ocean coverage, but none from earlier times when the oceans were much deeper there. Yet, at those same earlier times, MD jaws have been found in areas fuurther inland.

Now flip this annoying coin of speculation on the other side. We know that many marine creatures have a size and growth rate limited only by food supply and available space (my freaking goldfish can testify to that). Well, there's a lot of space in the ocean. So perhaps giant sharks vanished or became very limited because of a limited food supply. For those few lucky sharks that have an excellent food supply, they might easily grow to trememdous sizes.

And on the third side of the coin, we know that some shark behaviors change when they reach a certain size or age. Such as the golden hammerhead which eats small crustaceans almost exclusively when it's younger, and then switches to fish after it reaches sexual maturity (partially because they can't harvest enough shrimp to fuel their energy needs). So perhaps this is true of GW's as well, that they change their feeding habits from shallow water to middle- or deep-water feeding when they get older or reach a certain size in order to find prey that's large enough or plentiful enough to live on. Perhaps the majority of GW's we've seen are merely the "teenage" stage of development.

Remember that "Jaws" was considered fanciful because it featured a an impossibly-large 30-foot Great White? And yet we now have seen many GW's that are in the 30-foot range. Unusual, but not exotically large.

Then there's the fourth possibility that has always bothered me since 4th grade science class; the food chain doesn't run in a line, but in a tangled circle. So what eats the sharks?

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