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In which specific year did megalodon go extinct?

Posted by: admin on 11/28/2007

Who Asked: Alex
Nano-novel: The Legend of Stick Man

Answer: Well, by its very nature of being a pre-historic shark, megalodon probably went extinct well before men started keeping the specific years that make up the historical record. Sorry if you find that answer disappointing. However, note that I said probably, and read on for ways that “probably” could become interesting in your story.

Megalodon was a giant shark.. Because of this, scientists are forced suppose an awful lot in their reconstructions and histories of this animal. Why? Because almost all of a shark’s body is cartilage, which doesn’t fossilize. So, basically, everything known about megalodon comes from fossilized teeth (and a few fossilized vertebra)! Because these teeth are similar in structure to a great white shark’s, the reconstructions show megalodon looking like a scaled up version of a great white. What megalodon really looked like is quite open to interpretation.

Most scientists agree that megalodon went extinct somewhere during the mid- to late- Pliocene period. However, there is a rogue branch of biology, called cryptozoology that studies lost or “hidden” animal, and a number of these scientists believe that megalodon never went extinct at all, but rather is waiting at the bottom of some cold murky part of the ocean to be rediscovered.

Why would crypozoologists think this? Well, for one thing, magolodon went extinct relatively recently, probably from a lack of easy food sources. Also, coelacanths, another ancient fish thought to be extinct, have been rediscovered. And, of course, there have been a number of sightings of megalodon-sized sharks in oceans around the world.

This is quite a heated debate in zoological circles, where cryptozoologists are regarded as either heretics or lunatics. Roesch says, “I was disappointed to read Dr. Karl Shuker's article on megalodon survival in Wild About Animals 12 (2). His continued insistence that megalodon may still survive lacks all reason . . . Despite being aware of this paper, Dr. Shuker has evidently chosen to largely ignore it, dismissing my points in a breezy manner, and not once mentioning my involvement with the subject.” Countering the argument for individual sightings of supposed megalodons, the ReefQuest Center for Shark Research says, “Eye witness accounts are notoriously unreliable and anecdotal evidence impossible to verify. The sea and atmosphere can play tricks on even the most experienced mariner. Multiple sightings of a well-publicized archetype - such as UFO's, Elvis, ape-men, sea serpents, or giant sharks - in no way verify that those reporting them witnessed a 'real' phenomenon, only that they could not identify what they saw as something prosaic and the closest identity that fits their recollections (often formed on the briefest of glimpses) happens to conform with one of these archetypes, which act as convenient templates for the indescribable.”

So, yeah, it is probably extinct. But there’s always the “what if”—both the “what if” the mega-shark is still out there, but also the “what if” that drives the cryptozoologists to keep looking. That is the kind of question you can really play with in your novel.

Thank you for playing Stump the Librarian!

Amber

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    • In Search of Prehistoric Survivors by Karl P. Shuker
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