The more we learn about the giant ancient shark Megalodon, the more of its rather scary nature we uncover it seems. The biggest species of shark ever to have existed in Earth's history had a rather unconventional way of getting a headstart in life and growing up to be so massive, a new research has revealed.
The study conducted by paleobiologists at Chicago’s DePaul University states it is likely that embryonic megatooth sharks ate the unhatched eggs in their mother’s womb. Moreover, the team found that the babies gave birth to babies 6.5 feet (two meters) long which is larger than an average adult human.
Scientists think that Megalodon consuming their own unborn siblings first might be the reason why they grew to be so massive.
The research was published in Historical Biology.
Growth bands like tree rings
The findings are part of a much larger research that examines the reproductive biology and growth of the ancient shark using CT scanning techniques. Scientists were able to identify "growth bands" that reveal how much the shark grew each year by scanning the megalodon vertebrae fossils, EurekAlert reported.
"Results from this work shed new light on the life history of Megalodon, not only how Megalodon grew, but also how its embryos developed, how it gave birth and how long it could have lived," said paleontologist Martin Becker of William Paterson University.
The 46 growth bands revealed the 29.5-feet (nine-meter) predator died aged 46. The researchers estimated that megalodon sharks may have lived to be at least 88 to 100 years old. However, this "remains rather theoretical and needs further investigation," researchers said.
Moreover, the findings suggest the shark was 6.5 feet (two meters) in length at birth, which means it was a baby bigger than Michael Jordan.
The gigantic size of the shark made scientists believe that cannibalism where embryonic megalodons fed on eggs in the womb took place to make sure the baby sharks were big enough to compete with fellow predators.
"As one of the largest carnivores that ever existed on Earth, deciphering such growth parameters of the megalodon is critical to understanding the role large carnivores play in the context of the evolution of marine ecosystems," said Professor Kenshu Shimada, lead author of the study.