Illustration of Megalodon from prehistoric times

Megalodon Illustration

Megalodon from prehistoric times scene 3D illustration

Photo by: Credit: Warpaintcobra / Getty

Credit: Warpaintcobra / Getty

Did Great White Sharks Cause the Megalodon’s Extinction?

The megalodon was the biggest shark to have ever lived, at around 18 meters in length - times the size of the largest recorded great white shark. How they went extinct has been a mystery, up until now.

July 04, 2022

Megatooth sharks, or the megalodon, roamed oceans around the globe between 23 and 3.6 years ago but what cause their extinction is somewhat of a mystery. This ancient apex predator had gigantic 18-centimeter teeth, which they used to eat larger prey like whales, dolphins, and even other sharks.

Fossil of Carcharodon Megalodon, the largest shark to have ever lived on Earth

Carcharodon Megalodon Fossil

Jaws of Carcharodon Megalodon

Photo by: Credit: Igor Kovalchuk / Getty

Credit: Igor Kovalchuk / Getty

Jaws of Carcharodon Megalodon

Scientist Max Planck and his team at Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany have developed a new method to understand the diet of the Otodus megalodon. Using zinc isotope composition of the mineralized sections of fossilized teeth has provided new clues as to the megalodon's fate.

The team compared the zinc isotope ratios in fossil and modern shark teeth from around the world, including an analysis of megalodon and both modern and fossil teeth of great white sharks. According to the analysis, megalodon and great white shark species very likely ate the same prey. Eating a similar diet would have created fierce competition between the two species for food, with great whites literally eating the megalodon's lunch, thereby driving them to extinction.

3D rendering of Megalodon


3D rendering of the extinct megalodon

Photo by: Credit: Racksuz / Getty

Credit: Racksuz / Getty

3D rendering of the extinct megalodon

More research using zinc isotopes to investigate the lives and diets of extinct animals could bring even more fascinating revelations about our own human ancestors.

Next Up

New Walking Shark Species Discovered

A shark that walks, evolutionary conundrums, temperature changes, and tectonic shifts lead scientists to discover four new species of sharks.Watch Island of the Walking Sharks on Wednesday, July 27 at 8:00pm ET/PT on Discovery and stream it on discovery+.

Shark Week: The Podcast – How Sharks Are Built to Hunt

Dive in with marine biologist and shark expert Luke Tipple as he shares amazing facts about sharks' super-hero senses and dispels common shark myths.

Shark Week: The Podcast is Splashing into the Scene

Bring the magic of Shark Week to your ears with this brand-new podcast.Shark Week: The Podcast launches July 18th on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and wherever you listen to podcasts.And get your heart pumping for Shark Week, starting July 24 on Discovery and discovery+.

Shark Week: The Podcast – The Life and Life Cycle of Sharks

Dive in with marine biologist and shark expert Luke Tipple as he discusses the evolution and life cycle of a shark from mating and birthing.

Shark Week: The Podcast – Shark Morphology - The Body of a Shark

Marine biologist and shark expert Luke Tipple recounts a shark interaction with a 20-foot Great White shark as he deep dives on shark anatomy.

There’s a Lot You Don’t Know About Sharks

But in the meantime, here are some fin-tastic facts you probably didn’t know about sharks.

Get Your Heart Pumping for Shark Week 2022

Shark Week 2022 starts July 24 on discovery and discovery+.

Shark Week: The Podcast – Cristina Zenato on Why Sharks are the Safest Animal to Interact With on the Planet

Luke Tipple is joined by Cristina Zenato, “shark whisperer,” professional diver, shark expert, and founder of People of the Water. They discuss shark personalities, cognitive instincts, and their memory passed through DNA.

Meet the Shark Species at Georgia Aquarium

Georgia Aquarium’s expert animal team cares for several shark species, from the great hammerhead and tiger sharks, to the largest in the sea - whale sharks (yes, they are a part of the shark family). Some of these species are apex predators essential to our ocean’s ecosystem. Unfortunately, humans are the number one threat to their populations.

Shark Week: The Podcast – Christine de Silva on the Technology Helping Us Understand Deep Sea Sharks

Luke Tipple is joined by Christine de Silva, marine scientist, shark expert, and co-founder of Juice Robotics to discuss deep-sea sharks and the technology helping us understand them.

Related To: