The monster shark that swam Charleston was so big that his jaws could crush a whale like a grape. Fortunately, it has disappeared a million years in the past.
But the apparent extinction of the megalodon 3.6 million years ago creates a new mystery for paleontologists: what happened to it at a time when other ancient marine species have survived?
Robert Boessenecker, Environmental Scientist at Charleston College, led a team that was remaking the notorious predator based on newly discovered fossils and a critical look at older discoveries.
The megalodon was the largest shark and predator fish ever known, and would have been at least twice as large as the largest white shark, the largest predatory fish present. The fossils suggest that the megalodon could have reached nearly 20 meters. His teeth were as big as an ax head and his name literally meant "big tooth".
The beast was ours. It was so common in the waters that have become the coastal plain of South Carolina that river divers nowadays need it as a trophy, and that they are regularly shallow beds and gravel pits.
The new research "tells us more about the timing of extinction (the shark) and excludes certain assumptions," Boessenecker said.
Among them was a popular but scientifically doubted theory that the radiations of a super nova – the explosion of a giant star – had led to a mass extinction there are 2.6 million d & rsquo; # 39; years.
At that time, a large number of ancient species have disappeared.
Strangely enough, the big white – the mysterious and rarely seen predator at the top who is the biggest predator fish known to date – might have helped kill the megalodon.
The research team speculated that the great white shark with its jagged teeth could have surpassed the megalodon for available food. The great white appeared 6 million years ago in the Pacific but was found around the world barely 2 million years later.
"The time was sufficient for great white sharks to spread worldwide and surpass (the megalodon) throughout its range, leading to extinction instead of the radiation of extra-terrestrial space. atmospheric, "Boessenecker said.
This discovery is the latest in a series led by Boessenecker, including research that has identified the Wando Whale, a former creature resembling a bottlenose dolphin whose fossils were found on the Charleston Harbor River. The whale was a toothless dwarf with a short snout, a suction feeder that probably went extinct after losing its prey to the seabed.
"Bobby (Boessenecker) proved that he was a fairly prolific researcher and did an impressive job in describing our many specimens of local fossils in the museum," said Mace Brown, a former Mount Pleasant paleontologist, who said donated the exhaustive collection of fossils that launched the Natural History Museum and the college's research center that bears his name.
"Bobby has collaborated and will continue to work with several researchers across the country to describe and solve the mysteries of the different marine animals that lived in our region in the distant past," Brown said.
reach Bo Petersen @bopete on Twitter or 843-937-5744.