Despite the fact that scientists believe megalodon has been extinct for 1.5 to 2 million years, this mysterious megabeast continues to fascinate and educate people today. As we mentioned before, it's important to understand megalodon's history, because it provides clues about the evolution of sharks and can help with today's shark conservation efforts. Since several shark species are showing signs of population decline, scientists look to megalodon to help them understand how a top marine predator can become extinct. Sharks may have a reputation for being killers, but they provide a vital service in ocean ecosystems by keeping carnivorous fish populations down.
The megalodon's only legacy isn't marine conservation, though; it has become a pop culture phenomenon among science fiction fans who gobble up anything related to the megatooth shark. The New York Times best-selling author Steve Alten wrote a series of books called "Meg" that depicts the megalodon terrorizing humans and dinosaurs -- neither of which actually existed at the same time as megalodon. But these inaccuracies proved to be the right combination for fans, and although "Meg" has yet to make an appearance on the silver screen, schlocky thrillers about giant sharks have become television and DVD hits.
When the trailer for "Mega-Shark vs Giant Octopus" was released online in May 2009, it became an instant hit on MTV.com and YouTube, thanks in part to '80s pop queen Debbie Gibson starring in the lead role. Despite getting a negative rating on the movie review Web site Rotten Tomatoes, the megalodon proved that it's too big to fail as this direct-to-DVD film went on to become a cult classic. In December 2010, the sequel -- "Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus," starring Jaleel White -- was released to even worse reviews, but television networks continue to explore the mysterious megalodon. Discovery Channel and History Channel have explored the megalodon in shows like "Prehistoric Sharks" and "MonsterQuest."
The megalodon may be extinct, but the mega-obsessed will continue to search out anything related to this mysterious sea creature, and some collectors will pay top dollar for a rare megalodon tooth. It's not uncommon to find megalodon teeth up for auction on eBay, and some have sold for up to $1,500.