Recent storms off the coast of North Carolina unearthed fossilized teeth of a Megalodon, the largest species of shark to ever call the ocean home. On average, this prehistoric shark species grew to nearly 60 feet in length, which is about three times the size of modern great whites.
"Oh my God, like I said, I felt like I was a lottery winner or something," Denny Bland, one of the lucky fossil finders, told NBC affiliate WITN. "It's like I'm the first one to touch that since it fell out of his mouth back in the day."
Megalodons roamed the ancient oceans during the Miocene-Pliocene period, and went extinct roughly 2.6 million years ago, according to a 2014 study published in the journal PLOS ONE by researchers from the University of Florida. Although researchers are unsure why exactly the extremely large marine predators went extinct, many scientists attribute their mass exit to a combination of cooling ocean temperatures, dwindling food supply and new predatory competition. (Scroll to read more...)
Megalodons are represented in the fossil record primarily by teeth. The recent teeth discovered in North Topsail Beach and Surf City, North Carolina are roughly the size of an adult's palm, according to WITN. The fossil record indicates that Megalodon's teeth were similar to those of most other sharks, and would have been located in rows that rotated into use as needed. For example, when they were broken, fell out or became to worn down. In total, most sharks have between three and five rows of teeth at all times. The first two rows do the majority of the work and are responsible for catching prey. Researchers believe that Megalodons primarily hunted whales.
Since little else is known about this ancient species, the recent finding in North Carolina may unlock more secrets about the ginormous, prehistoric sharks.
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