Video of a massive great white shark set social media ablaze this week, yet despite the suggestions of some, the ancient megalodon remains very much a creature of the past.
The giant shark, nicknamed Deep Blue, was filmed off Guadalupe Island in 2013, though new footage of the animal came to light this week. Impressive in size, the shark is thought to be one of the largest ever filmed, exhibiting a girth comparable to that of a hippo.
— Daily Express (@Daily_Express) June 11, 2015
As the footage of the shark spread online, inevitable comparisons between it and a megalodon were made by social media users and some media outlets. As the Express notes, the megalodon is a now-extinct species of ancient shark believed to be similar to a great white, which could grow to lengths of 60 feet or more (three times the size of Deep Blue).
Some people believe that megalodon sharks could still be alive, lurking in the deep ocean. Over the past few years, this idea has been spread by Discovery, which aired several “mockumentaries” focused on the possible continued existence of a megalodon. The evidence presented in these programs, however, was entirely fabricated, and researchers who appeared in them were actually paid actors. The programs (Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives and Megalodon: The New Evidence) were widely popular and led to a great deal of criticism from the scientific community, which accused the network of misleading the public about the megalodon’s survival, as the Inquisitr previously reported.
As IFLScience points out, there is no direct evidence that the megalodon may still exist anywhere in the world. Though stunningly large sharks have been caught at times or have washed up on beaches, none have exhibited any connection to the megalodon. In 1983, a massive great white was landed off Prince Edward Island, and despite its huge size, it was found to be only a teenager at the time of its death. Since Deep Blue is believed to be 50-years-old, it is possible the Prince Edward Island shark could have outgrown her, but it still was much smaller than a megalodon.
— WAFF 48 (@waff48) June 10, 2015
In addition, sharks regularly shed teeth. Megalodon teeth are fairly commonly found; as Fox Carolina notes, a 9-year-old girl discovered two of them near a Myrtle Beach pier earlier this week. Despite this fact, however, none of the megalodon teeth that have been uncovered have ever shown signs that they were recently lost.
Perhaps the final word on the extinction of the megalodon comes when comparing it to other species that hide in the deep oceans. Though the existence of huge squid was once questioned, the bodies of deceased animals periodically washed ashore. Indirect evidence was visible, in the form of battle scars on sperm whales, which prey upon giant squid. Were the megalodon to still be alive today, it is virtually certain that their need to prey upon other sea life would leave visible evidence, as IFLScience has pointed out.
“I reiterate — megalodons were HUGE! If they still existed, we would know about it. They would be chowing down on massive sharks and whales all over the world. We would see bite marks on whales, scars from old attacks too large to be from any known shark. It would be a spectacular sight, but unfortunately not one that we are going to see.”
Deep Blue is indeed a highly unusual, extremely unique shark. Despite her massive and intimidating size, however, the megalodon resides firmly in the ancient past.
[Image by Karen Carr via Wikimedia Commons]