How Megalodon Worked

Life of a Megalodon

A fossilized megalodon tooth.
A fossilized megalodon tooth.
Nick Caloyianis/Getty Images

What could life have been like for such a monolith of the sea? Many theories float around about the megalodon's habitat and prey. Megalodon fossils have been discovered far and wide, from Japan to the United States, so researchers conclude that megalodon was an intercontinental species, living all over the world's ancient oceans. Due to the coastal locations where the most fossils have been discovered, experts believe the megatooth shark had similar habitats as the great white of today -- living offshore in more temperate climates and setting up nurseries in warm, shallow water closer to coastlines [source: Renz].

In 2009, a group of paleontologists from the University of Florida in Gainesville discovered the fossilized remains of a megalodon nursery in Panama that was made up almost entirely of juvenile megalodon tooth fossils. Between this new discovery and a breeding ground found in South Carolina, scientists believe that an infant megalodon could have been an average 20 feet (6 meters) long, the same size as an adult great white.

Because of its sheer size, this species was the top predator of its time and would have needed to eat a lot to survive. Experts estimate that the average adult female weighed between 50 to 100 tons (45 to 90 metric tons -- about the size of half of a blue whale) and could eat up to 2,500 pounds (1,136 kilograms) of food per day. That's over 500 pounds (227 kilograms) more than the average American eats in an entire year.

Life at the top of the food chain meant the megalodon could eat whatever it wanted, and with its supersized, serrated teeth and a wide mouth, it could disable whales and seals easily before gulping them down. A team of researchers in Australia determined the megalodon's bite force was so strong, it could crush the skull of a whale as easily as a human can eat a grape [source: Wroe]. So what happened to the megatooth shark that knocked it from the top of the food chain to complete extinction? Find out on the next page.