Enormous teeth belonging to a relative of the nightmarish megalodon have been discovered scattered around the globe, which is exactly as terrifying as it sounds.
The ancient choppers were found in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and belonged to a submarine murder machine known as Megalolamna paradoxodon. The largest of these teeth measured 4.5 centimeters (1.77 inches) in length, which led researchers to calculate that the shark itself was probably between 3.7 and 7.2 meters (12.1 to 23.6 feet) long, based on the body length to tooth size ratio of other sharks.
While this may not be anywhere near as big as the enigmatic megalodon – which is thought to have grown to a length of between 10 and 20 meters (33 and 67 feet) – M. paradoxodon could still more than hold its own in the perilous waters of the prehistoric world 20 million years ago.
Describing the deadly dentures in the journal Historical Biology, a team of researchers led by DePaul University in Chicago explained that the creature’s anterior teeth were perfectly designed for “grasping” and “tearing” prey, while its lateral teeth were well adapted for “cutting”.
As such, they suspect it probably fed on medium-sized fish – potentially including other sharks – and a range of other creatures that were unfortunate enough to share the ocean with M. paradoxodon when it patrolled Earth’s waters.
Like modern great white sharks and the megalodon, this new addition to the ocean’s hit squad belonged to a group of sharks known as Lamniformes. However, while the great white shared a common ancestor with these two extinct species, the study authors stress that it did not descend directly from them, but is instead the product of a separate evolutionary branch.
M. paradoxodon teeth were found in five locations across the world, in the shallow coastal waters off California, North Carolina, Peru, and Japan. This suggests that, like modern great whites, the creature had a broad geographical range with few places it dared not go. Given the sort of weaponry it was carrying in its jaws, that’s not much of a surprise.