Scientists have figured out why the largest sharks on Earth could disappear. This may be due to the marine predators that now exist.
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, led by Jeremy McCormack, believe that megalodon sharks, considered the largest on the planet, have disappeared due to competition with white sharks. The New Atlas magazine writes about it. This they managed to find out after a series of studies.
Who are megalodons?
Megalodons are predatory sharks that inhabited all of the Earth’s oceans between 23 and 3.6 million years ago. It is believed that they were 20 meters long and weighed up to 100 tons. They were the largest predatory fish at that time.
Along with this, white sharks grow to a length of only 6 meters and weigh approximately 2.2 tons. But according to a new study, these two marine predators competed for food, which is why megalodons disappeared.
To understand this, the researchers analyzed zinc isotopes in the teeth of the fossilized largest sharks and fossil white sharks. This is necessary in order to understand what predators ate and where they were in the food chain.
For these purposes, the isotopes of the elements that are in the bones are also studied. But it is not possible to do this with sharks, since they are cartilaginous fish that have little bone material. It is difficult to study megalodons by bones, since only fossils of vertebrae and teeth remain.
Scientists studied the teeth of sharks from the early Miocene, they lived on the planet from 20.4 to 16.0 million years ago. Sharks from the early Pliocene, which lived on the planet from 5.3 to 3.6 million years ago, were also studied.
As it became clear, megalodons and white sharks were at the top of the food chain, and also ate the same food. It becomes clear that these predators could compete for food, because of which the largest sharks could have disappeared in the early Pliocene.
It remains unclear exactly how the competition took place and how strong it was. After all, these two completely different species could hunt in the same part of the ocean at different times of the year.
A new kind of study of the diet of extinct animals can become a unique tool for studying extinct species, including human ancestors.
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