The Megalodon is one of the most famous and powerful predators that ever inhabited the earth’s oceans. It appeared in the annals of the fossil record 23 million years ago and disappeared 3.6 million years ago. During this time, the giant shark terrorized the seas, leaving behind footprints that still fuel our ideas about it. However, a new analysis of the teeth left by the megalodon (Otodus megalodon) has shown that the extinct giant shark was at least partially warm-blooded, like some modern sharks.
Warm-bloodedness is the ability of animals to maintain a constant body temperature regardless of their environment. Many marine animals have a body temperature close to their environment, which allows them to conserve energy. However, warm-blooded animals, such as seals and dolphins, can maintain a higher body temperature, which gives them an advantage as hunters.
New research has shown that the megalodon had a higher body temperature compared to its environment and other coexisting shark species. This suggests that the megalodon was a warm-blooded predator, which may have given it an advantage as a hunter. However, studies show that this may also have made it vulnerable to extinction.
Giant body size with high metabolic costs at high body temperature may have contributed to Otodus species vulnerability to extinction compared to other sympatric sharks that survived the Pliocene epoch. This explains why the megalodon disappeared from the face of the earth despite its power and formidability.
However, not all scientists agree with this theory. Some scientists believe that changes in the world of the oceans, such as changes in temperature and sea level, as well as competition with other predator species, may have been the main reason for the extinction of the megalodon.
Although we don’t know what the megalodon looked like, we can learn more about its life from analysis of its teeth. Paleontologically, teeth are excellent time capsules containing isotopic records of various elements preserved in the bones of the organism. Stable isotopes in the environment are absorbed, usually when ingested, and replace some of the calcium in the teeth and bones, which can help archaeologists and paleontologists learn more about their lives.
In some cases, it can help reconstruct the animal’s diet. The oxygen isotope composition of phosphate in bioapatite reveals two key features of the animal: its body water isotope composition and its temperature. Oxygen isotope fractionation is temperature dependent, so in marine vertebrates the body water composition is in a constant state with the water in which the animal swims, so any deviation between δ18Op values observed in a warm blooded and a cold blooded animal should reflect the level to which a warm blooded animal can raise its temperature above the environment.
Studies of megalodon teeth showed that it was a warm-blooded predator, which may have given it an advantage as a hunter. However, it may also have made it vulnerable to extinction, as its gigantic body size with high metabolic costs at high body temperature could have depleted resources and increased competition with other predator species.