Connect with us


Megalodons might have set an all-time report as ocean predators



Each time paleontologist Dana Ehret provides talks in regards to the 15-meter-long prehistoric sharks often called megalodons, he likes to make a joke: “What did megalodon eat?” asks Ehret, Assistant Curator of Pure Historical past on the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton. “Well,” he says, “whatever it wanted.”

Now, there may be proof that’s actually true. Some megalodons (Otodus megalodon) might have been “hyper apex predators,” larger up the meals chain than any ocean animal ever recognized, researchers report within the June 22 Science Advances. Utilizing chemical measurements of fossilized enamel, scientists in contrast the diets of marine animals — from polar bears to historic nice white sharks — and located that megalodons and their direct ancestors had been typically predators on a degree by no means seen earlier than.

The discovering contradicts one other latest research, which discovered megalodons had been at an analogous degree within the meals chain as nice white sharks (SN: 5/31/22). If true, the brand new outcomes may change how researchers take into consideration what drove megalodons to extinction round 3.5 million years in the past.

Within the newest research, researchers examined dozens of fossilized enamel for styles of nitrogen, known as isotopes, which have totally different numbers of neutrons. In animals, one particular nitrogen isotope tends to be extra widespread than one other. A predator absorbs each when it eats prey, so the imbalance between the isotopes grows additional up the meals chain. 

For years, scientists have used this development to study fashionable creatures’ diets. However researchers had been nearly by no means in a position to apply it to fossils hundreds of thousands of years previous as a result of the nitrogen ranges had been too low. Within the new research, scientists get round this by feeding their samples to micro organism that digest the nitrogen right into a chemical the crew can extra simply measure.

The end result: Megalodon and its direct ancestors, recognized collectively as megatooth sharks, confirmed nitrogen isotope excesses typically better than any recognized marine animal. They had been on common in all probability two ranges larger on the meals chain than as we speak’s nice white sharks, which is like saying that some megalodons would have eaten a beast that ate nice whites.

“I definitely thought that I’d just messed up in the lab,” says Emma Kast, a biogeochemist on the College of Cambridge. But on nearer inspection, the information held up.

The result’s “eyebrow-raising,” says Robert Boessenecker, a paleontologist on the Faculty of Charleston in South Carolina who was not concerned within the research. “Even if megalodon was eating nothing but killer whales, it would still need to be getting some of this excess nitrogen from something else,” he says, “and there’s just nothing else in the ocean today that has nitrogen isotopes that are that concentrated.”

“I don’t know how to explain it,” he says.

There are potentialities. Megalodons might have eaten predatory sperm whales, although these went extinct earlier than the megatooth sharks. Or megalodons might have been cannibals (SN: 10/5/20).  

One other complication comes from the sooner, contradictory research. These researchers examined the identical meals chain —  in some instances, even the identical shark enamel — utilizing a zinc isotope as an alternative of nitrogen. They drew the other conclusion, discovering megalodons had been on an analogous degree as different apex predators.

The zinc methodology just isn’t as established because the nitrogen methodology, although nitrogen isotopes have additionally not often been used this manner earlier than. “It could be that we don’t have a total understanding and grasp of this technique,” says Sora Kim, a paleoecologist on the College of California, Merced who was concerned in each research. “But if [the newer study] is right, that’s crazy.”

Confirming the outcomes can be a step towards understanding why megalodons died off. If nice whites had an analogous eating regimen, it might imply that they outcompeted megalodons for meals, says Ehret, who was not concerned within the research. The brand new findings recommend that’s unlikely, however depart room for the likelihood that nice whites competed with — or just ate — juvenile megalodons (SN: 1/12/21)

Measuring extra shark enamel with each strategies might resolve the thriller and reconcile the research. On the similar time, Kast says, there’s lots to discover with their methodology for measuring nitrogen isotopes in fossils. “There’s so many animals and so many different ecosystems and time periods,” she says. 

Boessenecker agrees. In the case of the traditional oceans, he says, “I guarantee we’re going to find out some really weird stuff.”

Supply hyperlink

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Copyright © 2022 - NatureAndSystems - All Rights Reserved