Divers have unearthed a remarkable discovery in a submerged inland cave in Mexico: megalodon teeth, relics from an era when these colossal prehistoric sharks ruled the seas. To put it into perspective, imagine Jaws looking like a minnow compared to the megalodon, which could grow up to a staggering 50 feet in length. These apex predators prowled the oceans over three million years ago, making even the most fearsome modern-day sharks seem somewhat modest in comparison, although, it’s worth noting, they’re still no match for Jason Statham.
The quest to comprehend the extinction of these leviathans of the deep has led scientists to explore the most prevalent fossil left behind by the megalodon: its teeth. This scientific odyssey recently took an intriguing turn when speleologists and photographers Kay Nicte Vilchis Zapata and Erick Sosa Rodriguez made a jaw-dropping discovery while diving in the submerged sinkhole of Maderia in Mexico.
In the district of Cholul, which was once submerged beneath the sea, the intrepid explorers stumbled upon a treasure trove of fifteen dental fossils. What’s truly fascinating is that among these ancient relics, thirteen belonged to three different species of sharks, with one of them being none other than the formidable megalodon.
Reflecting on their astonishing find, Kay Nicte Vilchis Zapata recounted the moment, “We were looking at the wall, and suddenly I saw a little something. I went closer, and I saw that it was a tooth. That was the first, and apparently, it belonged to a sawshark.”
The teeth discovered in the submerged cave belonged to the megalodon shark (Carcharocles megalodon), the mackerel shark (Isurus oxyrinchus), and the sawshark. This valuable find provided concrete evidence that these creatures inhabited this area between roughly 5 million and 2.5 million years ago, shedding light on the prehistoric marine ecosystem that once thrived here.
Speleologist Erick Sosa Rodriguez pointed out, “It is just proof of what scientists have already studied and written about; what kind of wildlife lived here millions of years ago when this was part of the sea. Anthropologist and physicist Salvador Estrada has already launched an investigation.”
This remarkable discovery followed research earlier in the year, suggesting that the megalodon’s body temperature might have played a crucial role in its extinction. Scientists proposed that the megalodon had the ability to maintain a body temperature approximately 7 degrees Celsius warmer than the surrounding water. By analyzing tooth enamel from these ancient sharks, researchers have offered a compelling explanation for their extinction 3.6 million years ago.
According to the study published in the Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences journal, the megalodon’s elevated body temperature may have required a substantial amount of energy to maintain. This high energy consumption could have contributed to the megalodon’s eventual demise. Robert Eagle, the lead researcher and a UCLA assistant professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences, noted that understanding the factors behind the extinction of such a highly successful predatory shark can provide valuable insights into the vulnerabilities of large marine predators in today’s oceans, which are experiencing the effects of ongoing climate change.
Randy Flores, a UCLA doctoral student and a fellow of the Centre for Diverse Leadership in Science, further elaborated, stating, “Maintaining an energy level that would allow for megalodon’s elevated body temperature would require a voracious appetite that may not have been sustainable in a time of changing marine ecosystem balances when it may have even had to compete against newcomers such as the great white shark.”