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Ancient shark had colossal bite

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http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7540835.stm

The great white shark may have awesome jaws but they are nothing compared with those of megalodon, its gigantic, whale-eating ancestor.

A new study of the extinct creature's skull shows it had an almighty bite, making the prehistoric fish one of the most fearsome predators of all time.

All the more remarkable, scientists say, because the crushing force came from jaws made of cartilage, not bone.

The researchers report their skull work in the Journal of Zoology.

The megalodon super-shark swam in the oceans more than a million-and-a-half years ago.

It grew up to 16m (52ft) in length and weighed in at 100 tonnes - 30 times heavier than the largest great white - and must have been one of the most formidable carnivores to have existed.

"Pound for pound, your common house cat can bite down harder, " explained Dr Stephen Wroe of the University of New South Wales, Australia. "But the sheer size of the animal means that in absolute terms, it tops the scales."

Measuring up

Dr Wroe's team used a technique known as finite element analysis to compare the skulls of the great white with that of the prehistoric megalodon.

The approach is a common one in advanced design and manufacturing, and allows engineers to test the performance of load-bearing materials, such as the metal in the body and wings of an aeroplane.

CT (X-ray) scans were taken of megalodon remains to construct a high-resolution digital model.

A model of a modern 2.4m-long male great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) was developed for comparison.

_44890672_meg.jpgA recent BBC series imagined a face-to-face encounter

Megalodon's muscles were based on those of the great white, and the simulations were then loaded with forces to see how the two skulls, jaws, teeth and muscles would have coped with the mechanical stresses and strains experienced during predation.

By looking at the distribution of stress and strain on the sharks' jaws, researchers found that the largest great whites have a bite force of up to 1.8 tonnes, three times the biting force of an African lion and 20 times harder than a human bites.

Megalodon, though, is more impressive. It is predicted to bite down with a force of between 10.8 to 18.2 tonnes.

The team said biting with such force was quite a feat given that the jaws of these ancient creatures were made of flexible cartilage.

In contrast to most other fish, sharks' skeletons are made up entirely of cartilage. Scientists think that cartilage, being a much lighter material than bone, allows sharks to swim without the aid of a swim bladder.

With finesse

The Australian research team was interested in how a cartilaginous jaw performs compared with a bone jaw.

The scientists' study shows that the cartilaginous jaw is almost as strong as a bony jaw of the same size - losing only a few percent - in measures of bite force. What is more, the elasticity of the cartilage jaw increases the gape of the sharks to devastating ends.

"The shark's upper jaws can be dislocated: the whole upper and lower jaw pull out and forward as the shark twists and shakes its head from side to side to bite a chunk out of its prey," explains Dr Wroe.

Sharks feed on very large prey: the great white shark eats sea lions and the megalodon is thought to have eaten whales.

"Sharks ambush their prey and immobilise them with a bite, then wait for them die," Dr Wroe told BBC News. "They are actually delicate feeders and take care not to damage their teeth by biting down too hard on the large bones of their prey."

To keep their teeth sharp, sharks have a battery of them that is continually replaced.

It is the combination of their size, their razor-sharp teeth and the element of surprise that makes sharks such deadly predators.

MEGALODON COMPARED WITH THE GREAT WHITE SHARK

_44889480_shark_compare466.gif

Megalodon Great white shark

Type

Cartilaginous fish Cartilaginous fish

Size

16m (52ft) 6m (20ft)

Diet

Whales, including the now extinct Odobenocetops, seals Fish, turtles, seals, sea lions, squid and crustaceans

Predators

None known Occasionally caught by fishing industry as bycatch


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shame they went extinct, i can omly imagine they must have been a beautiful sight to behold

makes you think of the wonders of nature lost forever


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Wonders of nature that could eat a semi-truck.

I saw an episode on the discovery channel where a scientist went back in time to see (and swim with) the ten top predators of the ancient oceans. The megalodon was number three I think. These creatures were huge and it boggles the mind to think that these creatures used to live in the oceans and could still live in the deepest trenches of the world. If these types of creatures still lived then I would never go near the ocean again. :)


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Megalodons are like Sea Kings from One Piece. O_O Too scary.
YEAH! Only more vicious looking I suppose, but em Sea Kings are quick *nod nod*

I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.

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There still could be some out there. We've found fish that were supposed to be extinct before. Its a big ocean, and we can't get to most of it.


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