Discovery Revisits Megalodon For Shark Week 2014 Despite Backlash

Discovery will revisit the subject of prehistoric predators for Shark Week 2014 with Megalodon: The New Evidence, a sequel to a widely criticized “mockumentary” that aired last year.

A massive shark that went extinct around 2 million years ago, the Megalodon is the subject of much speculation that it may still exist in the deepest reaches of the ocean. Discovery capitalized on the popularity of the subject for Shark Week in 2013, airing Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives. The program quickly became the most popular show in the history of Shark Week, which premiered in 1988.

The problem with Discovery’s Megalodon documentary, however, is that it was entirely faked. A short disclaimer greeted viewers before the program aired:

“None of the institutions or agencies that appear in the film are affiliated with it in any way, nor have approved its contents.

“Though certain events and characters in this film have been dramatized, sightings of ‘Submarine’ continue to this day.

“Megalodon was a real shark. Legends of giant sharks persist all over the world. There is still a debate about what they may be.”

Christie Wilcox, writing for Discover Magazine, highlighted the degree of fabrication that went into the Megalodon mockumentary:

“No whale with a giant bite taken out of it has ever washed up here in Hawaii. No fishing vessel went mysteriously missing off of South Africa in April. No one has ever found unfossilized Megalodon teeth. Collin Drake? Doesn’t exist. The evidence was faked, the stories fabricated, and the scientists portrayed on it were actors.”

Despite a vitriolic response from fans, Discovery has apparently decided that high ratings are worth viewer anger. For Shark Week 2014, they’ve crafted a sequel to Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives. According to International Business Times, Megalodon: The New Evidence will air Friday, Aug. 15, at 10 p.m. EDT and “will follow Collin Drake as he returns to share new details of the case, presenting ‘shocking’ new evidence of the existence of Megalodon.”

Discovery has already stoked controversy in the lead-up to Shark Week, releasing a viral video that purported to show a shark swimming in Lake Ontario. Canadian citizens and officials became so concerned over the footage that Discovery was forced to admit it was a hoax intended to popularize Shark Week, as The Inquisitr reported.

David Kerstetter, Assistant Professor at Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center, echoed the frustrations of many scientists when he voiced his concerns over the Megalodon programs:

“Rather than having Shark Week engage the audience with stories of the very real (and quite enthralling) research going on with elasmobranchs, those of us in the field now spend our public outreach efforts debunking silly things like ‘mermaids’ and the continuing existence of Megalodon.”

A backlash against Discovery has already begun, with many scientists hesitant to work with the network. Rebecca Helm, a graduate student at Brown University, said that for her, “there is very little incentive in collaborating with organizations that are likely to misrepresent me and my research.” Since Discovery has a huge reach, Helm added that “It makes what they’re doing even more hurtful and damaging,”

[Image via Fishcrack]

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