New research analyzing the fossilized teeth of an extinct shark known as Megalodon has proven that it disappeared because a much smaller shark deprived it of prey and starved it to death. David, once again, defeated Goliath.
The story of David against Goliath was repeated in the oceans, according to the results of research conducted by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and published in the journal Nature Communications.
The legend contained in the Book of Samuel of the Hebrew Bible says that the Palestinian giant Goliath was killed in one battle by a young man named David.
Since then, legend has become the standard for a competition in which a smaller and weaker opponent meets and defeats a much larger and stronger opponent.
What the German researchers say in their study can be considered a new episode, always repeating throughout history, of this legend whose origin goes back to the seventh century BC. c.
Goliath in this evolutionary epic was a huge shark that is now extinct, and it terrified the seas between 23 and 3.6 million years ago: it reached 18 meters in length and weighed about 100 tons. It was scientifically called Otodus megalodon.
David is a shark still living among us, the great white shark, which can reach six meters in length at most. New research concludes that this shark wiped out the giant megalodon.
It is believed that his disappearance may be the result of competition by the great white shark for Megalodon in search of food.
He came to this conclusion by analyzing the fossilized teeth of a giant shark, of which there are no traces of its existence: although their skeletons have disappeared, their teeth have survived from fossils.
In this study, the researchers analyzed the constant isotope ratios of zinc in the teeth of modern sharks and in fossils from around the world, including the teeth of megalodon and modern great white sharks.
Analysis of stable zinc isotopes of dental enamel, the highly mineralized portion of teeth, revealed that diet-related zinc isotope fingerprints are preserved in the metal-filled fossil shark tooth crown.
Since the zinc built into the shark’s teeth comes from its diet, it allows us to know what nutritional level It happened at a certain point in his life. Trophic level refers to the classification of species according to the way in which they obtain their food.
What the researchers were able to conclude from their chemical analyzes was that the white sharks and megalodon were feeding on the same prey.
This discovery led them to the conclusion that the small white shark ended up depriving the megalodon of prey, causing its complete extinction. Once again, David cleverly defeated Goliath.
Megalodon is considered one of the largest and most powerful predators in the history of vertebrates. Most estimates of its size are extrapolated from teeth.
It is estimated that its large jaw can exert a biting force of 110,000 to 180,000 newtons (25,000 to 40,000 lbf).
Fossil remains indicate that this giant shark had a global distribution, with breeding grounds in warm coastal regions. It probably had a very important influence on the structure of marine societies at the time, until another, more modest shark, starved them to death.
Previous estimates suggested that because megalodons preferred warmer waters, it is certain that ocean cooling associated with the onset of ice ages, combined with declining sea levels and the resulting loss of suitable breeding grounds, may also have contributed to their extinction.
The dietary position of Otodus megalodon fish and great white sharks has been revealed through time by zinc isotopes. Jeremy McCormack et al. Nature Communications, Volume 13, Article No.: 2980 (2022). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-30528-9
“Beer enthusiast. Subtly charming alcohol junkie. Wannabe internet buff. Typical pop culture lover.”