creature scene investigation

Fact or Fiction?

creature scene investigation
Bigfoot: Fact or Fiction? Giant Anaconda and Other Cryptids: Fact or Fiction? Kraken: Fact or Fiction? Loch Ness Monster: Fact or Fiction? Megalodon: Fact or Fiction? Mokele-mbembe: Fact or Fiction?

creature scene investigation Megalodon Fact or Fiction? Rick Emmer .

recording. Carcharocles megalodon—Juvenile literature. QL89. You can find Chelsea House on the World Wide Web at http://www. including photocopying. Megalodon: fact or fiction? / Rick Emmer. Brainerd. contact: Chelsea House An imprint of Infobase Publishing 132 West 31st Street New York NY 10001 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Emmer. or sales promotions. Text design by James Scotto-Lavino.2.MEGALODON: FACT OR FICTION? Copyright © 2010 by Infobase Publishing All rights reserved.chelseahouse. p. institutions. Because of the dynamic nature of the Web. cm. ISBN 978-0-7910-9777-9 (hardcover) ISBN 978-1-4381-3210-5 (e-book) 1. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means. MN Date printed: March 2010 Printed in the United States of America 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 This book is printed on acid-free paper. MN Book printed and bound by Bang Printing. Rick.3—dc22 2009011461 Chelsea House books are available at special discounts when purchased in bulk quantities for businesses. electronic or mechanical. Erik Lindstrom Cover design by Takeshi Takahashi Composition by EJB Publishing Services Cover printed by Bang Printing.C37E46 2010 567'. associations. — (Creature scene investigation) Includes bibliographical references and index. without permission in writing from the publisher. Please call our Special Sales Department in New York at (212) 967-8800 or (800) 322-8755. All links and Web addresses were checked and verified to be correct at the time of publication. Title. For information. Brainerd. . some addresses and links may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. or by any information storage or retrieval systems. II. I.

Like Son 4 Things That Go Bump in the Night 5 A Long-Lost World 6 Mysteries from the Deep Blue Sea 7 Final Report: Megalodon Glossary Bibliography Further Resources Picture Credits Index About the Author 5 .Contents Preface 6 1 Megalodon: The Fisherman’s Nightmare 9 24 36 43 53 68 80 86 92 96 98 99 103 2 One Whale of a Fish Story 3 Like Father.

even though it is not yet proven. two-step process as they search for cryptids. if cryptozoologists want to find out about the Loch Ness Monster. So. Bernard Heuvelmans. cryptozoology is the study of “hidden” animals. invented that word 50 years ago. Just how does a person prove that a particular cryptid exists? Dedicated cryptozoologists (the scientists who study cryptozoology) follow a long. The best possible evidence would be 6 W . a cryptozoologist takes the results of his or her research and goes into the field to look for solid evidence that the cryptid really exists. for example. First. The remaining information can then be used to produce a clear scientific description of the cryptid in question. This is important because it helps the scientist identify and rule out some stories that might be mistakes or lies. the scientific study of animals.PrefaCe elcome to Creature Scene Investigation: The Science of Cryptozoology. which are animals that some people believe may exist. A cryptozoologist carefully examines all of this information. they gather as much information about their animal as they can. they must ask the people who live around Loch Ness. If they want to learn about Bigfoot. These people are most familiar with the animal and the stories about it. The most important sources of information are people who live near where the cryptid supposedly lives. or cryptids. a lake in Scotland where the monster was sighted. a French scientist. they should talk to people who found its footprints or took its photo. It is a combination of the words kryptos (Greek for “hidden”) and zoology. the series devoted to the science of cryptozoology. It might even lead to solid proof that the cryptid exists. So. Second.

a combination of good videos. The goal of cryptozoologists is to catch a cryptid—or at least to find solid evidence that it really exists. or “goat sucker. an African dinosaur called Mokele-mbembe. Some cryptids have become world-famous. The goal of forensics detectives is to use the evidence they find to catch a criminal.” from the Caribbean. body parts (bones and teeth. Short of that. a giant anaconda snake from South • Megalania. There are many other cryptids out there. footprints. In this way. The most famous ones of all are probably the legendary Loch Ness Monster of Scotland and the apelike Bigfoot of the United States. or Tasmanian wolf. blood-sucking Chupacabras. the science made famous by all of those crime investigation shows on TV. some people think so. for example). This series explores the legends and lore—the facts and the fiction—behind the most popular of all of the cryptids: the gigantic shark known as Megalodon.Megalodon: The Fisherman’s Nightmare Preface 7 an actual specimen—maybe even a live one. too. and other clues can make a strong case for a cryptid’s existence. the science of cryptozoology is a lot like forensics. the Loch Ness Monster. from the . and Bigfoot. photographs. Mexico. and South America America • the Sucuriju. At least. prehistoric flying reptiles from Africa and the island of New Guinea island of Tasmania • the thylacine. This series also takes a look at some lesser-known but equally fascinating cryptids from around the world: • the mysterious. the gigantic monitor lizard from Australia • the Ropen and Kongamato. Kraken the monster squid.

are simply unusually large (or. “If it sounds too good to be true. totally unlike anything known to modern science. such as the Chupacabras. they keep in mind a couple of slogans. And yet other cryptids. are animals already known to science. appear to be animals right out of a science fiction movie. unusually small) versions of modern animals. a mermaidlike creature from the waters of New Guinea • the thunderbird. a giant vulture from western North America Some cryptids. such as dinosaurs like Mokele-mbembe. Some people. These animals are thought to have become extinct. “Absence of proof is not proof of absence. believe that these animals are still alive in lands that are difficult for most humans to reach. however.” The second is. As cryptozoologists search for these unusual animals. such as the giant anaconda snake.” The meaning of these slogans will become clear as you observe how cryptozoologists analyze and interpret the evidence they gather in their search for these awesome animals. in some cases. Other cryptids. The first is. . it probably isn’t true.8 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? • the Ri.

. And the teeth are exactly like the teeth you see in great whites today. . Look.000 or 40.1 Megalodon: The Fisherman’s Nightmare The really terrific thing. the Latin name for this fish is Carcharodon carcharias. . What I’m getting at 9 . is imagining—and it could be true—that there are great whites way down in the deep that are 100 feet long.000 years ago. We have fossil teeth from Megalodon. a fish that existed maybe 30. okay? The closest ancestor we can find for it is something called Carcharodon megalodon. They’re six inches long. the thing that blows your mind. That would put the fish at between 80 and 100 feet.

Can you imagine what it could do.10 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? is. If there’s enough down there to support whales. isn’t it? This string of three little words is scary enough to make any beachgoer think twice before wading into the water. is a gruesome tale about a great white shark that terrorizes the residents of Amity. The great white shark is one powerful predator. This action-packed story of man versus man-eating monster is enough to convince anybody that the great white shark must be one of the most terrifying predators to ever swim the seven seas. Odd. Capable of growing to a length of more than 20 feet (approximately 6 meters) and weighing more than two tons (1. there’s enough to support sharks that big.800 kilograms). Jaws reat . . white . 6-foot-long (1. . That’s due in no small part to one other little word: Jaws. made into a blockbuster movie in 1975. It would be like a locomotive with a mouth full of butcher knives. It took only five G .8 m) harbor seal. . . . what kind of power it would have? . and porpoises. Just because we’ve never seen a 100-foot white doesn’t mean they couldn’t exist. . dolphins. shark. New York. . it makes quick work of its victim. swims—atop the ocean food chain. . this shark is constantly on the prowl for prey: fishes. What’s to say Megalodon is really extinct? Why should it be? Not lack of food. This popular novel by Peter Benchley. Roaming cool coastal waters between the warm tropics and the frigid polar seas. When a great white shark attacks. pinnipeds (seals and sea lions). One marine biologist (a scientist who studies life in the ocean) once saw a great white attack a 200-pound (91 kg). . this huge fish sits—or rather. . . suppose the two fish are really one species. —Peter Benchley. . a quiet little tourist town on the Atlantic seaboard.

minutes for the shark to kill and eat its prey. the seal was gone. and dangerous.Megalodon: The Fisherman’s Nightmare 11 The great white shark is one of the most fearsome predators in the sea.5 m) wide. Great white sharks are known to attack humans. Think about what a trophy the jaws of such a monster make: a mouth that is a foot and a half (0. Great whites can reach lengths of more than 20 feet (6 m) and weigh nearly 5. Deep-sea fishermen have actually caught 20-foot (6-m) great whites on rod and reel. strong.260 kg).000 pounds (2. with plenty enough room to stick your whole head inside. lined with knife-sharp triangular teeth 2 inches (5 centimeters) long. . (Not that you’d really want to—those teeth are very sharp!) Only a highly skilled angler could safely land a fish that big. but such attacks are very rare. After three huge bites.

their shape is almost identical: fat triangles with saw-tooth serrations along both sides.12 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? Now try to imagine what it would be like to hook a great white so big that its teeth were 6 inches (15 cm) long. we won’t know for sure. A white shark the size of a whale. dwarfing the relatively puny 2-inchers found on a 20-foot shark. Over the years.8 inches (17. which is Greek for “mighty tooth”— have been discovered and carefully dug out of sedimentary rocks. Hundreds more have been scooped up from the bottom of the ocean. with a mouth so big it could swallow basketball star Shaquille O’Neal in one bite. Could such a monster really exist? Yes. Carcharodon. many fossilized teeth of Carcharodon megalodon—usually just called Megalodon. What a colossal monster that would be. the teeth of these two species of shark are so similar that ichthyologists (scientists who study fish) are pretty sure the sharks themselves must be similar as well. However. Some people have even suggested that Megalodon is nothing more than a supersized great white shark. It should be noted that many scientists believe that Megalodon and the white shark are closely related species belonging to the same genus. In fact. Until someone catches one of these leviathans. some shark experts disagree and think that the teeth of these two fishes are different enough—Megalodon teeth have relatively smaller serrations along the edges and possess INTrODucING MEGALODON . The largest Megalodon tooth ever found measured a whopping 6. It was as big as a man’s hand.3 cm) long. Although Megalodon teeth are much larger than teeth of the white shark. Carcharodon megalodon is the name scientists have given this gigantic version of the great white shark. To snag such a beast would surely be a fisherman’s worst nightmare.

complete fossil jaw of an ancestor of the great white shark. The size and arrangement of the teeth in this 5-million-year-old fossil indicate that the great white may be more closely related to another man-eater. Carcharocles. Numerous megalodon teeth have been found worldwide.Megalodon: The Fisherman’s Nightmare 13 This fossilized Megalodon tooth is estimated to be 5 million years old. a scarlike mark near the base—that Megalodon ought to be placed in a different genus. than it is to Megalodon. the mako shark (genus Isurus). which suggests that the shark was once very widespread in the world’s oceans. scientists generally agree that Megalodon and the great white are very similar and probably look a lot alike. This theory is strengthened by the recent discovery of a rare. . Be that as it may.

after all. similar families are grouped together into an order. similar classes into a phylum. similar phyla (the plural of phylum) into a kingdom. similar orders into a class. living or dead. Closely related genera (the plural of genus) are grouped together into a family. most shark experts doubt that anyone ever will catch a live Megalodon. They’ve been able to do this by studying fossils of extinct sharks and by analyzing the appearance and behavior of modern-day . or a Megalodon. no one has ever laid hands on one. a bald eagle. and finally. The complete classification of Megalodon is as follows: Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Chondrichthyes Order: Lamniformes Family: Lamnidae Genus: Carcharodon Species: megalodon Unfortunately. a great white shark. Taxonomists place each kind of organism within a seven-level system of classification. The smallest unit in this system is the species. A species is what we normally recognize as a particular type of organism: a muskrat. scientists have been able to draw a pretty detailed picture of what Megalodon probably looked like and how it probably lived. the genus.14 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? What’s In a Name? S cientists who classify organisms are called taxonomists. Closely related species are grouped together in the next level of classification. Nevertheless. They think the huge shark is probably extinct.

and some people use the term “man-eater” to refer to any species of shark known to kill and eat people (such as the mako). Megalodon’s formal name is therefore Carcharodon megalodon. As a result.) No two species are allowed to have the same scientific name. although great white shark. (Scientific names are obtained from Latin and Greek words. If someone refers to Carcharodon carcharias. This is a definite advantage over the use of nicknames. this system of classification not only shows how closely related two species are. to say the least. the identity of the critter is crystal clear. especially Megalodon’s little cousin. white shark. the great white.Megalodon: The Fisherman’s Nightmare 15 When referring to a particular organism. reconstructing Mighty Tooth Most people wouldn’t think a person trying to reconstruct Megalodon could get very much information just by studying its teeth. it also guarantees that one person knows exactly which species another person is talking about. not everyone is familiar with them all. scientists normally just use its genus and species names. white death. The fact that Megalodon and the great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) have been placed in the same genus shows that scientists believe the two sharks are closely related. great white. These names are written in italics. For example. however. yet that’s exactly what scientists have done. white pointer. sharks. and man-eater are all nicknames for the same fish. By . and the only letter that is capitalized is the first letter of the genus name. The picture that scientists have painted is impressive.

2 million years ago. scientists believe that Megalodon’s jaws would have to be bigger and sturdier than a white shark’s in order to hold and support all those massive teeth. and how thick and sturdy they would be. They know what shape the teeth would have.16 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? A Megalodon shark (Carcharodon megalodon) is pictured above the much smaller great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias). This . Because Megalodon teeth are bigger and sturdier than those of a white shark. The enormous Megalodon is believed to have lived between 20 million and 1. scientists have a pretty good idea of what the jaws of a shark sporting such deadly dentures would look like. comparing fossilized megalodon teeth with the teeth and jaws of great whites and other living and extinct sharks. how big they would be.

to help support and steer the shark’s “top-heavy” front end as it moved through the water. Aldan Martin explains on his Biology of Sharks and Rays Web site. in turn. Clearly. would be “sort of a great white on steroids. The overall effect. would mean that Megalodon’s pectoral fins would also be larger and sturdier. This evidence. therefore. from several This model approximates the size of the megalodon jaw. Megalodon was one of the most ferocious predators to ever roam the sea. a model of the jaws of a Megalodon was put on exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.Megalodon: The Fisherman’s Nightmare 17 would indicate that the rest of the skull—and therefore the whole head—would also be more massive. The Megalodon fossil teeth used in this model were obtained from several different places (and. . as shark expert R.” Just how big did Megalodon grow? Back in the early 1900s.

excluding the hundreds of reserve teeth waiting to replace those that Let’s Get Technical: External Anatomy of Sharks uring the course of this investigation. In order to do this effectively. The anatomy of Megalodon was likely very much like that of the great white. Like most noses.18 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? different sharks). . the equivalent of a nose. pointed snout. Using the number of teeth present in the jaws of a great white shark (about 24 in each jaw. located on the ventral (bottom) surface D The anatomy of the great white shark is perfectly designed for strength and speed. the great white shark. the white shark’s nose has a pair of nostrils. let’s take a whirlwind tour of the external anatomy of the shark that probably looks the most like Megalodon: Carcharodon carcharias. it is necessary to be familiar with some of the visible body parts of sharks. it will be necessary to compare Megalodon with other shark species. At the business end of the white shark is the tapered. With that in mind.

triangular first dorsal fin.) The shark’s equivalent of arms is its pair of pectoral fins. museum artists ended up creating a set of jaws 10 feet (3 m) wide. behind and below the gill slits. .5 m) long. with its tooth-studded jaws. It’s easy to tell the sex of any shark: Each of a male’s pelvic fins has a long. The crescent-shaped caudal fin at the rear helps propel the shark through the water. far back on the belly. Scientists believe the claspers of a full-grown male megalodon would have been 5 feet (1. The eyes are located a little further back. which are used for steering. A small anal fin is located on the ventral surface. They are located on the sides. a chamber that collects products of the digestive and reproductive systems before they exit the body. fingerlike projection called a clasper that is used to introduce sperm into the female’s cloaca during breeding. also near the base of the tail. small.Megalodon: The Fisherman’s Nightmare 19 break off). is located directly beneath the eyes. The white shark’s trademark is its large. on either side of the opening for the cloaca. where water that has passed through the mouth and gills (which take up oxygen) exits the body. A Megalodon with this monstrous mouth would have been close to 100 feet (30 m) long! of the snout. (Many sharks also have spiracles—small openings behind the eyes—that allow water to flow through the gills. a short distance in back of the snout tip. The mouth. Finally. near the base of the tail. The dorsal and anal fins help stabilize the shark as it moves through the water. on the sides of the head. Along each side of the shark’s neck are five parallel gill slits. Fast swimmers such as the great white often do not have spiracles. They supply their gills with enough oxygenated water just by swimming with their mouth open. paired pelvic fins are located ventrally. There is an inconspicuous second dorsal fin located farther back. located on the dorsal (upper) surface. on the ventral surface of the head.

(Remember. As a result.22 The biggest Megalodon tooth discovered so far is nearly 7 inches (18 cm) long.22 = 17. scientists are now able to make more accurate size predictions for megalodon. A close look at the jaws of a great white reveals that the teeth are not all the same size: The teeth at the front of the jaws are bigger than the ones along the sides and at the back.22 = 17. the teeth were obtained from several sharks. however. the largest of all living sharks.8 m) wide. grow . more fossil teeth have been discovered. one group of researchers.06 meters This calculated length of about 17 meters. it’s in the general neighborhood of the estimate the museum scientists came up with for their scaled-down version of Megalodon. What would a shark of this size weigh? Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus). or 56 feet. meaning that the shark was only 45 to 50 feet (13–15 m) long. has come up with a mathematical formula to determine how big the owner of a given fossil tooth must have been (this formula works for the big front teeth only. they calculated that the jaws of the Megalodon model should have been only about 6 feet (1. This means the length of the owner of that tooth would have been: length = (0.96 x 18) – 0. led by fossil-hunting paleontologist Michael Gottfried. Since then.) When scientists took tooth size differences into account. including a cluster of teeth from a single shark. in meters = (0.20 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? Several years later.) The formula is: length of megalodon. not just one. In fact. in centimeters]) – 0. seems reasonable. scientists realized that these model jaws were too big.28 – 0. The fossil Megalodon teeth used in the original museum model were all big front teeth.96 x [front-tooth height.

A shark that big must have had an appetite to match.000 pounds [2. serrated teeth are a gruesome giveaway as far as its food choice is concerned. and back teeth that are stubby and sturdy. which are slippery and hard to hold on to. The great white shark’s strong. Unlike most other sharks. Its teeth serve as both fork and knife. the hornshark (Heterodontus francisci). The A Whale of a Meal . A mako’s teeth are skinny and pointed. white sharks—especially adults—prefer to prey on marine mammals. has front teeth that are small and pointed. perfect for poking into and latching on to such slick prey. (Elephant seals. perfect for smashing the shells of sea urchins. and other crunchy prey. because different kinds of teeth are designed to do different things. so ichthyologists feel that’s probably a good approximation of the weight of a megalodon of the same length. What would such a colossal beast eat? Fillet of whale. How can ichthyologists determine what a shark eats just by looking at its teeth? It’s really pretty easy. one of the great white’s favorite foods. sharp. for example. which are usually much too large to be swallowed in one gulp. actually has two very different types of teeth to handle a variety of types of prey. Another shark. This little shark. which often prey on animals small enough to be gulped down in one bite.300 kg]!) A white shark likes to remove big chunks of flesh from its large prey. can grow very large. which spends most of its time resting on the seabed. crabs. Take the shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus). This was one big fish—at least twice as long and nearly 10 times as heavy as a really big white shark.Megalodon: The Fisherman’s Nightmare 21 40–50 feet (12–15 m) long and weigh about 20 tons (18. an adult male can reach a weight of 5.000 kg). perfect for grabbing and holding on to slippery bottom-dwelling fish. This speedy shark feeds on squid and fish.

some fossil whale bones with suspicious-looking scrape marks on them . scientists are pretty sure it also dined on marine mammals. since most seals would be little more than an appetizer for that “locomotive with a mouth full of butcher knives. In fact. Pictured here are the teeth of a very intimidating 20-foot (6-m) great white. While the puny white shark prefers pinnipeds.22 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? The teeth of the great white shark were designed to catch and shred large prey. just like the tines of a fork stabbing a piece of steak. like a heavy-duty steak knife. pointed tips stab into a seal’s body. Megalodon probably hunted much larger prey. however.” Whales would be the most likely main course on the menu. Because Megalodon’s teeth are so similar to the great white’s. while the serrated edges of the teeth cut through flesh and bone.

Therefore. Can these eyewitness accounts be believed? Did these people actually see Megalodon. perhaps evidence of a deadly battle between two colossal beasts. and just made up a bunch of whopping fish tales about “the big one that got away. in order to evaluate and draw conclusions about these possible sightings. It’s time to perform a creature scene investigation! .” Since none of these eyewitnesses provided any direct. It’s a lot like the way crime scene investigators gather and evaluate bits and pieces of evidence obtained at the scene of some dastardly deed.Megalodon: The Fisherman’s Nightmare 23 have been dug up along with fossil Megalodon teeth. it is necessary to investigate whatever details these accounts provide. MODErN-DAy MEGALODON: FAcT Or FIcTION? Since the year 1918. or did they see some other huge fish and mistakenly identify it as megalodon? Perhaps they saw nothing at all. a handful of people have reported encounters with Megalodon-sized monster sharks cruising the ocean. rock-solid evidence to back up their claims. all we have to go on is their stories.

Stead presents the story told by some Australian lobster fishermen (referred to in the 24 . all five stories will be investigated in detail. in fact. Stead.2 One Whale of a Fish Story here are five recorded eyewitness accounts of possible Megalodon sightings. an Australian naturalist. T cAsE #1: ThE LObsTErMEN’s TALE This account was published in 1963 in the book Sharks and Rays of Australian Seas. written by David G. In this case. it just may be the biggest fish story of all time. The first one is a truly amazing story. During the course of this text. both of which present surprisingly similar descriptions of huge sharks encountered off the coast of Australia. This section begins the investigation by analyzing two of these stories.

mooring lines and all. One of the crew said the shark was “three hundred feet long at least”! Others said it was as long as the wharf on which we stood—about 115 feet [35 m]! They affirmed that the water “boiled” over a large space when the fish swam past. for several days. “pots. In company with the local Fisheries Inspector I questioned many of the men very closely and they all agreed as to the gigantic stature of the beast. however. The story goes as follows: In the year 1918. They were all familiar with whales. absurd. But the lengths they gave were. they refused to go to sea to their regular fishing grounds in the vicinity of Broughton Island.” The crayfish pots. And bear in mind that these were men who were used to the sea and all sorts of weather. I recorded the sensation that had been caused among the “outside” crayfish men at Port Stephens. which they had often seen passing at sea. on the whole. and taking.One Whale of a Fish story 25 story as “crayfish men”) who had an encounter with a huge fish while tending to their lobster traps (“crayfish pots”). as an indication of the state of mind which this unusual giant had thrown them into. it should be mentioned. and all sorts of sharks as well. when. They had seen its terrible head which was “at least as long as the roof on the wharf shed at Nelson’s . I mention them. The men were all unanimous that this shark was something the like of which they had never dreamed of. were about 3 feet 6 inches [1 m] in diameter and frequently contained from two to three dozen good-sized crayfish each weighing several pounds. lifting pot after pot containing many crayfishes. as the men said. The men had been at work on the fishing grounds—which lie in deep water—when an immense shark of almost unbelievable proportions put in an appearance. but this was a vast shark.

they knew that the person they were talking to (myself) had heard all the fish stories years before! One of the things that impressed me was that they all agreed as to the ghostly whitish color of the vast fish. What makes it all the more interesting is that a surprisingly (and perhaps suspiciously) similar story was reported many years later. This is certainly one whale of a tale. however. He is convinced. Further. Cartmell in his 1978 book Let’s Go Fossil Shark Tooth Hunting: In the 1960s along the outer edge of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. whatever these men saw while tending their lobster traps apparently upset and scared them to the point that they refused to return to their fishing spot for several days. not given to “fish stories” nor even to talking about their catches. of course! But these were prosaic and rather stolid men. that is. and collected people not likely to be easily upset or scared by unusual or dangerous situations.” Impossible. an 85 foot [26 m] ship experienced engine trouble which forced it to weigh anchor for repairs.26 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? Bay. Yet. Although the men subsequently refused to openly report what they had seen for fear of public . Notice that Stead describes these lobstermen as being “prosaic and rather stolid”. Stead believes the remarkable length of the shark reported by the lobstermen may be an unintentional exaggeration.C. calm. they were cool. The fact that great whites are known to attack lobster traps and buoys adds a measure of credibility to the story. resulting from these normally unflappable men being so caught up in the spine-tingling excitement of the moment. cAsE #2: ThE crEWMEN’s TALE The following account is described by author B. that these lobstermen saw an immense shark unlike any they had seen before.

One Whale of a Fish story 27 ridicule. Then again. Case #2 describes a shark at least 85 feet long. Whitish in color. What big Teeth you have! If Little Red Riding Hood was impressed with the size of the Big Bad Wolf’s teeth. Plugging the lengths of the sharks described in Cases #1 and #2 into this formula produces some pretty amazing results. It was as long if not longer than their boat! Experienced men of the sea. Since the formula uses meters to measure shark length. they were awed by its size. My. The fantastic size and white color of this mysterious beast sound just like a slightly smaller version of the monster reported in the lobstermen’s tale. Perhaps the lobstermen’s description of their monster shark was accurate after all. it is necessary to consider the possibility that the crewmen in Case #2 were just fabricating a copycat story.22) ÷ 0. to evaluate both accounts it will help to determine the likelihood of Megalodon having the size and color described in these two stories. Gottfried’s shark-length formula can be transformed into a tooth-length formula by means of a little mathematical manipulation: front-tooth height (centimeters) = (length of Megalodon [meters] + 0. they too were certain the creature was not a whale.96 This new version of the formula can be used to calculate the size of the front tooth of a Megalodon of any length. the captain and his crew later told friends of sighting an immense shark as it moved slowly past their ship. she would have been flabbergasted by the size of the teeth possessed by a Megalodon as big as the sharks described in Cases #1 and #2. In either case. the metric equivalent of 85 feet (26 m) must be plugged into the .

a front tooth from a shark as long as the one described in Case #2 would have been almost 11 inches (28 cm) long. That would make one heck of a paper weight. How large would a front tooth from this A great white shark tooth (left) is pictured beside a Megalodon tooth (right). they are similar in shape and design.75 inches) Thus.22) ÷ 0. Entering this value into the tooth height formula produces: front-tooth height = (26 + 0. .28 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? formula. Although the teeth vary greatly in size. What about the shark in Case #1? It was even bigger— a lot bigger.96 = 26.31 centimeters (10.22 ÷ 0.96 = 27.

22 ÷ 0. Its favorite food is pinnipeds. If Megalodon had ever grown to such humongous sizes. The fact that this is not the case casts a shadow of doubt over both of these stories.22 ÷ 0.96 = 95.One Whale of a Fish story 29 monster be? The shorter shark length estimate was 115 feet (35 m). What about the other important detail in these two cases.69 centimeters (14.02 centimeters (37.96 = 36. 300 feet (91 m): front-tooth height = (91 + 0. which the shark stalks in the shallows as these animals leave or return to . the sharks’ eerie white color? Perhaps a look at Mighty Tooth’s little cousin will shed some light on this question.) Just imagine: a 300-foot (91-m) Megalodon would have front teeth that were more than three feet long.22) ÷ 0. You’d need a wheelbarrow to haul one of those around! The fact that the largest Megalodon tooth ever found is less than 7 inches (18 cm) long makes it hard to believe that any of the shark lengths reported in the lobstermen’s and crewmen’s tales are realistic.22) ÷ 0. It’s as clear as black and White Enough about tooth size. a good way to predict a shark’s color is to consider its feeding habits.41 in.) A tooth 14 inches (36 cm) long would be the diameter of a pizza! But that’s nothing. Plugging that into the tooth height equation gives: front-tooth height = (35 + 0. The white shark is a perfect example. Believe it or not.96 = 91. Just look at the results for the larger estimate. it is likely that fossil hunters would have occasionally found teeth much larger than the numerous hand-sized ones that have been discovered so far.44 in.96 = 35.

30 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? the safety of their rookeries (the beaches and rocky shores where they hang out when they’re not at sea looking for food).22 = 14.2 m (or 46.22 For example.22 + 0.96 x [front-tooth height]) – 0. we simply rewrite the formula.96 x [front-tooth height. By measuring the height of any fossilized front tooth of a Megalodon. Because pinnipeds are excellent swimmers and have good eyesight. When it spots Let’s Get Technical: Gottfried’s Formula S hark expert Michael Gottfried’s Megalodon tooth formula is a handy tool.5 feet) This formula can also be rearranged to determine how large a front tooth would be on a Megalodon of a specific length.22 to both sides of the equation: length + 0. we can determine the body length of its owner. in centimeters]) – 0.22 = (0. plug the tooth length into the formula: length of Megalodon = (0.4 – 0. Start with the original formula: length = (0. a white shark must be able to sneak up on its prey if it is to have any chance of catching lunch.96 x 15) – 0. to determine the length of a shark whose front tooth is 15 cm long. To do this.22 = 14.96 x [front-tooth height]) – 0.22 Add 0. in meters = (0.22 . looking for a target. The great white’s feeding strategy is to cruise back and forth near the bottom of the shallows. The formula is stated as follows: length of Megalodon.

it’s easy to predict the size of the front teeth of sharks such as the ones described in the lobstermen’s and crewmen’s tales.22) ÷ 0.96 = front-tooth height Finally.22) ÷ 0. divide both sides of the equation by 0.22 + 0.96 = (0.96 = (14.22) ÷ 0. it sneaks up below or behind its prey and then lurches forward in a quick burst of power.96 x [front-tooth height]) Now. catching its victim off guard and dealing a huge bite.96 = 15 cm By using this second form of Gottfried’s formula. Since –0.2-meter-long shark. giving: (length + 0. in centimeters = (length of megalodon. flip-flop both sides of the equation: front-tooth height = (length + 0.2 + 0. .96 ÷ 0. Using this rearranged version of Gottfried’s formula.96 Since 0. we get: front-tooth height. the right side of the equation can be simplified. providing camouflage as the hunting fish blends in with the dark-colored sea bottom.96 x [front-tooth height]) ÷ 0.22) ÷ 0. almost black. giving: length + 0. the right side of the equation can be simplified. causing the animal to quickly bleed to death. The shark’s dorsal surface is colored dark gray.96 = 1.One Whale of a Fish story 31 a seal or sea lion in the water.22) ÷ 0.96 Suppose you wanted to figure how large a front tooth should be on that 14. in meters + 0.96: (length + 0.22 = (0.22 = 0.

When seen from below. On the flip side. the white belly of the shark blends in with the light sky. When seen from below. . Seen from above. the great white’s ventral surface is very light. almost pure white in color. The coloration makes it hard for the shark to be seen when it is hunting underwater. had a dark top and a light belly. Although scientists cannot be absolutely certain about Megalodon’s colors without an actual specimen. the shark’s belly blends in with the bright sky.32 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? The great white shark is white on the bottom and dark on top for good reason. This dark top/light bottom type of color pattern is known as countershading and is very common in fishes. they’re pretty confident that Mighty Tooth. enabling it to sneak up on its prey. the dark top of the shark blends in with the dark ocean bottom. again providing camouflage. sealeating relative. like its smaller.

they certainly give substance to the term “white lie”! sIzING uP ThE EvIDENcE What motive. Writing in the Cryptozoology Review. Melville’s legendary sperm whale. Perhaps. Moby Dick. this . rather than honestly reporting such a potentially embarrassing and costly mishap to the businessman who owned the boat and lobster traps. shark scientist Ben Roesch states that Case #2 “drips with tabloid style and reads much like a rewritten account of the 1918 giant shark. Without that buoy at the surface to mark the position of the traps in the deep water below. if these two eyewitness accounts are really just hoaxes. because Cartmell provides no references for anyone to double-check and verify his story.” Furthermore.One Whale of a Fish story 33 In that case. other than simply pulling David Stead’s leg. would the lobstermen in Case #1 have had for fabricating such a fantastic story? It could have been an alibi to cover up the accidental loss of their lobster traps. Then again. Case #2 is also suspect. In common language. Perhaps these fellows were inspired by a certain classic novel written by Herman Melville in 1851. Maybe their marker buoy drifted away because it was not securely tied to the mooring line attached to the submerged traps. the lobstermen tried to hide their goof-up by concocting a story about an encounter with a monster shark that had a sweet tooth for shellfish. the lobstermen would have no way to locate their traps the next time they swung by in their boat to harvest their catch. why would the eyewitnesses in Cases #1 and #2 declare that the monster fish was all white? Perhaps they were mistaken: Light reflecting on the water’s surface may have played tricks on their eyes. maybe this is further evidence that both stories are just fibs. he points out that the story is “useless as evidence” for the existence of Megalodon. was—you guessed it—all white.

The Great Barrier Reef on the northeastern coast is an especially popular hunting ground for sharks. Coincidentally.34 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? The oceans of Australia are prime hunting territory for many species of sharks living today. of no more value than gossip or rumors. would be a case of hearsay evidence. the story wasn’t published until 1963.” It’s hard not to be suspicious about the timing of these events. Case #2 just happened to occur sometime “in the 1960s. It’s also interesting to note that even though Case #1 occurred in 1918. especially since they both reportedly took place in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Australia .

however. PrOGrEss rEPOrT #1: MEGALODON Considering the incredible sizes and unlikely coloration of the sharks described. and set sail for the balmy open waters of the South Pacific. it’s pretty clear that neither Case #1 nor Case #2 makes a strong argument for the modern-day existence of Mighty Tooth. . the huge. Then. and the total lack of any evidence solid enough to sink one’s—or Megalodon’s—teeth into. at about the time the lobstermen’s tale was published in Stead’s book. It’s time to pull anchor. Surely Stead’s sensational story would have caught the attention of Australia’s fishermen and lobstermen. no one reported seeing any other huge. white monster sharks. For more than 40 years following the 1918 incident. the “fact” that two white monster sharks were sighted in the same general area might suggest that a group of gigantic white Megalodons lived off the east coast of Australia. one would expect a gigantic tooth to be hauled up from that region of the ocean floor from time to time. leave Australian waters. But as pointed out earlier. a bit north of the capital city of Sydney). What about the other eyewitness accounts? Perhaps the stories of a famous author and his teenage son make a stronger case for the existence of Megalodon. and Port Stephens is along the east coast.One Whale of a Fish story 35 (the Great Barrier Reef extends all along the northeast coast of the continent. The timing of these events definitely suggests the possibility that the crewmen in Case #2 simply read or heard about Stead’s story and decided to spin a tall tale of their own. the questionable circumstantial evidence surrounding the timing of the publication of Case #1 and the occurrence of Case #2. If that were the case. On the other hand. white monster shark reappeared for a curtain call. no such teeth have ever surfaced.

they look nothing like the ghostly white giants described in the first two accounts. and the like). Cases #3 and #4 suggest a totally different beast. swordfish. Case #3 presents a brief account of Grey’s encounter with what some people think might have been a live Megalodon. 36 . Like Son he next two eyewitness accounts of monstrous sharks have nothing in common with Cases #1 and #2. other than that they also occurred in the Pacific Ocean. While the sharks described in Cases #3 and #4 are similar to each other.3 Like Father. This merits taking a closer look. He was also an avid deep-sea angler who loved fishing for big-game fishes (marlins. T cAsE #3: ThE AuThOr’s TALE Zane Grey was the author of dozens of novels about cowboys and the Wild West.

Unlike speedy predatory sharks such as the great white and mako. .” One Whale of a shark As mentioned previously. Nevertheless. Then I was more frightened than I remember for a long time. This allows water to enter the mouth and pass out through the gills. Thus. [with a] square head. immense pectoral fins and a few white spots. Grey describes one massive shark. pointed snouts. Like son 37 While deep-sea fishing in the South Pacific in the 1920s. the shark was “yellow and green . As he describes it. The whale shark is a slow-poke filter feeder. and he implies that he is well-enough acquainted with the whale shark. the size of Grey’s shark does not exclude the whale shark as a suspect. blunt snout (kind of like a square with rounded corners). . which is longer than the shark described by Grey. . .” In this account. to know that the monster he saw was not one of these peaceful giants. . Grey saw a huge shark swimming near his boat. . the whale shark has a distinctive huge.Like Father. Neither does the shape of the monster shark’s head. the whale shark can grow to 50 feet (15 m) long. . with a wide mouth at the front. In order to draw a valid conclusion about Case #3. [It was] considerably longer than my boat—conservatively between 35 and 40 feet [10. It feeds by gaping its broad jaws wide open as it slowly swims at the surface. we must leave no seashell unturned. the largest known living shark. which have streamlined. it is important to rule out the whale shark as a possible candidate for Grey’s “man-eating monster. . I figured out that the fish . . was not a harmless whale shark but one of the man-eating monsters of the South Pacific.5 and 12 m]. . . Grey describes the shark he saw as having a square head. which are equipped with filterlike structures that trap small organisms drifting in the water.

Philippines. with a light-colored belly and a dark background color (gray. (It’s probably no coincidence that scientists’ reconstruction of the massive-headed Megalodon also has relatively large pectorals. which help this large-headed shark steer and maintain its balance as it swims. whale sharks have variable color patterns. or rusty brown) on the dorsal surface. It is the largest of all the known sharks.38 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? A whale shark is a slow swimming shark that feeds on algae and plankton. brown. They have a basic countershaded color pattern. Whale sharks have relatively large pectorals. Grey mentions that his shark had huge pectoral fins. There are usually many white . This 20-foot (6-m) whale shark is feeding in the open water near Donsol.) What about the shark’s color? Grey’s shark was green and yellow. As it turns out. gray-green. with some white spots.

indeed. The huge round head appeared to be at least 10 to 12 feet [3 to 3. The number and pattern of spots varies. and the right coloration. creating sort of a checkerboard pattern against the dark background color. but when the great brown tail rose in the ship’s wake as the fish moved ponderously away from the liner. It looks like Grey was mistaken. All of this is curious. He was not a whale shark: The whale shark has a distinctive white . Loren. the huge shark he describes sounds very much like a whale shark. I knew immediately that it was a monstrous shark. others have fewer. the right head shape. They were passengers aboard the steamer ship S. cAsE #4: ThE TEENAGEr’s TALE Case #4 took place in 1933. Despite his claim to the contrary. Grey and his son Loren were returning to the United States after a deep-sea fishing trip to the South Pacific island of Tahiti. witnessed the following scene as he gazed at a blotch of yellowish water visible from the steamer’s deck: At first I thought it was a whale. should remove all doubt. It was my belief that this huge. which also involves the famous author.7 m] across if not more. If all this evidence isn’t enough to implicate the whale shark as the fish that frightened Grey.S. from animal to animal: Some whale sharks have lots of spots. barnacled creature must have been at least 40 or 50 feet [12 or 15 m] long. . It has the right body size. however.Like Father. The coloration of the shark Grey describes is not unlike what is known to occur in whale sharks. Maunganui. yellowish. Like son 39 or yellow spots and vertical stripes on the shark’s back. . Case #4. who was a teenager at the time. . the right pectoral fin size.

and narrow head that he claims characterize a whale shark do not characterize a whale shark at all. the curious yellow color of Loren’s shark. Loren appears mistaken about the characteristics of whale sharks: The “white purplish green appearance. This large.40 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? purplish green appearance with large brown spots and much narrower head. Just like his father. the yellow patch of water seen near the shark was quite possibly a “cloud” of yellowish plankton (tiny organisms adrift in the water) floating at the water’s surface. filter-feeding whale sharks. which can reach a length of up to 33 feet (10 m). Such plankton clouds are known to attract hungry. . straining tiny organisms from water that passes through its huge gills. This is another bigheaded filter-feeder that slowly swims about at the ocean’s surface. So what was he—perhaps a true prehistoric monster of the deep? Here again. The effect would be like gazing at the shark through a sheet of yellow cellophane. brown shark has a narrower head than the whale shark. Furthermore. According to shark expert Ben Roesch. might be explained by yellowish plankton in the water. Loren Grey claims to know what a whale shark looks like and says that the big shark he saw was something else. mouth wide open. One seemingly irrelevant bit of information relating to Loren Grey’s story actually presents very strong evidence that his “prehistoric monster of the deep” was indeed a whale shark. as well as the “yellow and green” hue of his father’s shark in Case #3. immense gill slits that extend all the way down the sides of the head. however.” brown spots. we have a description of a huge shark the size of either a Megalodon or a whale shark. Are there any other living sharks that might be mistaken for the giant sharks observed by the Greys? There is only one other shark that grows anywhere near as large as the whale shark: the basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus).

PrOGrEss rEPOrT #2: MEGALODON Careful analysis of the descriptions of the giant sharks in Cases #3 and #4. makes it pretty clear that both cases are instances of mistaken identity. and a distinctive cone-shaped snout. It is the second largest shark in the world behind the whale shark. along with analysis of the circumstances surrounding these sightings. The sharks seen by Zane and Loren Grey were almost certainly whale sharks. It’s not likely to be confused with anything else. is a filter feeder. The basking shark is a gentle creature that poses little threat to humans. like the whale shark.Like Father. Like son 41 The basking shark. . not Megalodon.

How can such big animals survive by eating such tiny morsels of food? By eating a load of them: One basking shark caught by scientists had 300 pounds (136 kg) of plankton in its stomach! Most of the food energy in the ocean is stored in the countless billions of organisms that make up this plankton soup. plankton-trapping structures called gill rakers. Compared with active. letting the water flow through stiff. whale sharks and basking sharks must strain thousands of gallons of seawater through built-in filters located in their gills. A feeding whale shark frequently closes its huge mouth and forces seawater back through a soft. tooth-studded hunters such as the great white and Megalodon. small fish. was nothing as tasty as a dolphin or seal. It wasn’t even edible. The plankton eventually gets stuck in mucous at the back of the throat. however. spongelike filtering material that collects plankton as the water flows through and out the gills. bristly. In order to feed their tremendous bulk. The basking shark doesn’t even bother to close its mouth when feeding. a mix of microscopic plants and animals. where it is swallowed. Case #5 is the story of an unusual shark attack. a bizarre one to say the least. the victim of this attack was a boat! T . basking sharks and whale sharks lead slowpaced lives of leisure. Believe it or not. The target of this attack. mouth wide open.42 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? Let’s Get Technical: Filter-Feeding Giants he largest of all sharks—whale sharks and basking sharks— feed on plankton. shrimplike crustaceans and other tiny invertebrates. There’s still one case to go. This spongy filter is supported by sturdy rods made of cartilage (the same substance that forms the stiff part of your nose) so that it won’t collapse and let the plankton escape. it just slowly swims forward.

provides 43 . cAsE #5: ThE cAPTAIN’s TALE The following story of a shark attack on the cutter Rachel Cohen (a cutter is a speedy patrol boat used by the coast guard).4 Things that Go Bump in the Night I n the first four cases that were investigated. summarized here by scientist Ben Roesch. That is definitely not the case in the final eyewitness account. the gigantic sharks apparently did not pay much attention to the eyewitnesses’ boats as they cruised by them. which describes a close encounter of the toothy kind between a boat and a huge fish—possibly a Megalodon.

5 in. he thought it had been caused by a collision with a floating tree trunk. Indonesia. this account provides some really useful details about the attack and definitely merits further investigation. Could this really have happened. In almost every case. Anyone? It just so happens that many boats have been attacked by sharks. At the time. and perhaps the mind of Megalodon as well. Unlike the white shark.) high. however. The events of this story clearly suggest that the Rachel Cohen was attacked by an immense shark. the largest white shark teeth on record measure about 6 cm (2. workers found 17 teeth embedded in the ship’s wooden hull that reportedly resembled those of the white shark.) in height. The teeth were arranged in a semi-circle (typical of a shark bite) about 2 m (6 ft) in diameter.44 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? an interesting glimpse into the fascinating world of shark behavior: While in an Adelaide [an Australian port city] dry dock in March 1954. which are apparently common in the area. we can start to understand the mind of the white shark. and the “bite” was near the propeller. The Rachel Cohen’s captain recalled a shudder the boat experienced one night during a storm near Timor. By studying the details of some of these unusual incidents. the teeth were said to have been 8 cm (3 in. or is Case #5 just another fish tale? Fortunately. .) wide and 10 cm (4 in. The propeller shaft itself was bent. the perpetrator of the crime was none other than the great white. boat hulls and Propeller shafts: Dinner.

presumably to test whether the object is edible. young girls in a boat fight off a pair of hungry sharks. There is actually a method to the apparent madness in white sharks’ attacks on boats. The perpetrator is most often the great white. authors Richard Ellis and John E. keel. In their book Great White Shark.” Palmer actually witnessed . In this fictional illustration from 1908. McCosker present fisherman/writer Ernest Palmer’s description of the method of attack commonly used by boat-hunting white sharks: “[T]he first intimation of its presence is usually a violent thud upon the rudder. sharks have been known to occasionally attack boats. or side of the boat and the propeller is frequently mouthed and shaken by the shark.Things that Go bump in the Night 45 Throughout history.

which they use to monitor their environment in ways people can do only with the help of high-tech instruments. but they also have a few others. which help the fish maintain its balance as it moves through the water. and even at night.” Let’s Get Technical: Shark Senses H umans rely on five senses to learn about the world around them: sight. permit water to pass into sensory structures called nasal capsules. Even though the ears have no opening on the surface of the head. Sharks’ ears are located near the top of the skull. The nostrils. Shark ears also have structures called semicircular canals. It’s the same structure that makes a cat’s eyes glow at night in the beam of a flashlight. where biomolecules such as proteins (for example. the tapitum lucidum. which reflects light onto light-detecting cells in the retina. They are especially good at seeing in the dim light of dawn and dusk. . taste. Sharks have a pair of eyes that are similar to human eyes. and touch. oxygen-carrying hemoglobin in the blood) can be detected in concentrations as low as one molecule per one billion water molecules. Sharks have a keen sense of smell. smell.46 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? such an attack on the propeller of the boat from which he was fishing: “The propeller struck the shark on the head three times but it continued to follow until we anchored and caught the shark with three nasty gashes in the head. This “night vision” is possible because of the presence of a special structure in the back of the eye. Sharks can detect the scent of prey miles away. a shark’s eyes allow it to see in almost every direction. Sharks have all these senses. they are very good at detecting sounds such as those produced by injured animals flopping and splashing around in the water. hearing. when many sharks are on the prowl. located near the tip of the snout. Located on the sides of the head.

. One of these senses. a network of pressure-sensitive nerve cells called neuromasts. The white shark is well-equipped to navigate through its watery world. even though your hand and leg never touch. located in the skin of the head and lower jaw. By sensing changes in water pressure. as when scrounging around for prey buried under the surface of the sea floor. Countless nerve cells of various types are located beneath a shark’s skin. allowing it to taste food items as it bites or mouths them. too. called ampullae of Lorenzini. enables sharks to detect A shark’s taste buds are located on the tongue. the lateral line can detect moving objects. Sharks have an amazing array of senses that they use to survey their undersea world. (To get some idea of what this sense is like.) Finally. These electrical fields are detected by a network of tiny structures. your leg can feel the pressure wave of water created by your swishing hand. Sharks also possess a lateral line. providing the fish with a very sensitive sense of touch as well the ability to detect bending and stretching of the body as the shark swims through the water. the electrosense. Unusual items found in the stomachs of sharks (for example. sharks possess an electrosense that can detect faint electrical fields produced by contracting muscle cells of other animals.Things that Go bump in the Night 47 Ellis and McCosker provide the most likely explanation for this rather strange behavior. climb into a swimming pool and use your hand to swish water toward your leg. bottles and tin cans) are believed to have been accidentally swallowed while being tasted. located on the head and along the sides of the shark. This sense is used for close-range snooping. Megalodon certainly was.

48 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? extremely weak electrical fields. off the east coast of Canada. Some sharks’ electrosense is so sensitive that they can detect prey that is buried under sand on the sea floor. or] 20-cm hole through the bottom of the boat. as the dory sailed alone on July 9. the shark bites it to see whether it’s tasty. Burns. that’s not the whole story. with companion John MacLeod. It is believed that the white shark can detect these propeller-produced electrical fields. . The shark did not return after its initial—and only—strike against the boat. They may also attack if they feel their turf—or in this case. . . There is evidence that white sharks don’t attack boats only when they are hungry. set out daily in his dory [a small fishing boat] to harvest lobsters. such as those produced by the contraction of muscle cells in living organisms. Then. . Collier on the Web site of the Shark Research Committee: Commercial fisherman John D. . figuring that the propeller is alive. . For nearly a week the white-hulled dory was followed by a large shark after leaving the harbor. Day after day the other fishermen watched in disbelief as the shark stalked Burns and MacLeod’s dory from behind. the shark charged. No sooner would their dory put out to sea than a large dorsal fin would appear astern of the boat. surf—is being invaded. Many dories dotted the sea in their quest of the prized crustacean. However. This incident is one of many shark attacks on boats described by shark expert Ralph S. TWO’s A crOWD One of the most famous of all white shark attacks occurred in 1953. It just so happens that the metal surfaces of a boat’s propeller and propeller shaft also produce a weak electrical field in the water. ONE’s cOMPANy. smashing an [8 inch. but only Burns’s had a white-painted hull. .

“Get out of here! This is my territory!” This interpretation of the shark’s behavior is not as crazy as it sounds. circled the boat. On the one hand. Recall that the lower surface of a white shark’s body is white. especially considering Collier’s account of another shark attack that occurred in 1989 along the California coast. it swam off in search of a tastier meal. Then. the shark left the seal carcass. Perhaps this is because it was the only dory with a white hull. it may be that the shark viewed the dory not as a potential meal. Upon the boat’s approach. and rammed its hull. pausing as if to direct it in a particular direction. “The behavior consisted of a shark lifting the caudal fin out of the water. By ramming the dory. Therefore. an unwelcome intruder. By that point. no one knows what that white shark was thinking when it attacked the dory. Research by marine biologist Peter Klimley indicates that tail slapping is a behavior exhibited by white sharks as they establish a pecking order around a tasty food source.Things that Go bump in the Night 49 Obviously. The tail-slapping behavior reported in this unusual incident provides an important clue as to the shark’s motive for attacking the boat. a boat with a blue and white hull came upon a great white feeding on a harbor seal carcass. As Klimley describes it. but there are two possible explanations. On the other hand. The shark returned to its meal and resumed eating. the boat had drifted away from the seal. The shark singled out Burns’s dory from all the other fishing boats. the shark may have attacked the boat in hopes of eating it. such as the dead harbor seal in the above account. when it discovered that the wooden hull was not particularly tasty. it’s possible that the shark mistook the white-bottomed dory for another white shark. It then slapped the boat’s back end and propeller with its tail a number of times. In this encounter. the shark may have been saying. and then rapidly . but as a potential rival or competitor. in shark language.

either because they mistake them for food. They bite boat hulls and propellers. the teeth found stuck in the cutter’s hull belonged to one big shark. or because they mistake them for rivals.” returned to the seal. Great whites do attack boats. often splashing a large amount of water in the direction of another white shark.50 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? lowering it while contacting the water with considerable force. the one that makes the biggest splash. (Unfortunately. The incident occurred at night during stormy weather. and resumed feeding. assuming those 4-inch (10-cm) teeth were front teeth: . The great white that slapped the boat in Collier’s account most likely was staking its claim to the seal carcass. so it’s not surprising that no one reported seeing any whale carcasses floating around or any tail slapping going on. the shark figured it had won the “contest.) But what about the other details in the account? Do they provide any really hard evidence to back up the captain’s story? That’s One big Fish If the captain’s report is accurate. Since the boat did not splash back at all.” Two sharks competing for a seal carcass slap water back and forth at each other until one shark. we can use Gottfried’s formula to calculate just how big. the captain’s tale certainly appears plausible. Tail slapping is a harmless way for white sharks to settle their differences without fighting and injuring each other. wins the contest—and the prize. this account does not provide enough information to determine the shark’s motive for attacking the cutter. ANALyzING ThE EvIDENcE So how does all of this relate to Case #5? Based on all the above evidence about white shark attacks on boats. and drifted away as if in retreat.

it must have been one heck of a huge white shark! If those teeth were side teeth. in fact. valuable find. so the story cannot be dismissed outright as being phony.6 – 0. The shark described in Case #5 was substantially longer than that—8 feet (2. PrOGrEss rEPOrT #3: MEGALODON .22 = (0.96 x [front-tooth height. The lack of teeth as evidence casts a big shadow of doubt over the captain’s tale. (Recall that we previously noted that scientists figured 6-foot-wide jaws would belong to a shark up to 50 feet [15 m] long. meaning the shark itself would have been even bigger. that no one bothered to save any of those 4-inch (10-cm) teeth that were supposedly embedded in the Rachel Cohen’s hull. As does the fact that the sources for Roesch’s account provide no references that would allow anyone to double-check and verify the story.38 meters. It’s puzzling. then the front teeth would have been even longer. however. A tooth that large would be an impressive.96 x 10) – 0. A trophy.Things that Go bump in the Night 51 Megalodon length in meters = (0. It was 23 feet (7 m) long.22 = 9.5 m) longer! If that shark wasn’t megalodon.22 = 9. which fits with the reported 6-foot-wide (2 m) bite mark on the hull.) If only someone had saved those teeth! The details presented in Case #5 are entirely in keeping with the known behavior of the great white shark. or approximately 31 feet The largest white shark ever caught was landed by fishermen in the Mediterranean Sea. centimeters]) – 0.

the next step in our investigation will be to try to figure out what could have led to this shark’s demise. Therefore. we must consider the very real possibility that this magnificent beast is extinct. back to an era when megalodon still ruled the ocean. smashing the propeller shaft against a submerged boulder or coral reef.52 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? Why would the captain make up such a story? Perhaps to cover up the real cause of damage to the boat: Maybe the Rachel Cohen ran aground. To do this will require taking a giant step back in time. . we must follow Roesch’s lead and dismiss Case #5. because all we really have to go on is hearsay evidence. In any case. and hearsay evidence is useless in creature scene investigations. Without any clear-cut evidence demonstrating the existence of Megalodon. Such a mistake might lead to disciplinary action by the captain’s superiors.

and although it lived long before the first dinosaurs roamed the land.) This shark was about 3 feet (1 m) long. which cruised the ocean hundreds of millions of years ago. It had 53 S . Some of the most ancient of all shark fossils belong to a little shark named Cladoselache. it looked pretty much like a typical modern-day shark. located near the southern shores of Lake Erie. known as the Devonian Cleveland 400 million-year-old sedimentary rocks. (“Devonian” is the name geologists— scientists who study rocks—have given to that portion of the geological time scale lasting from 408 million years ago to 360 million years ago. We know this because paleontologists have discovered numerous fossils of Cladoselache in 350 million. long time.5 A Long-Lost World harks have been around a long.

54 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? Cladoselache had a long. good-sized fossil fish have been found in the stomachs . including the tell-tale crescent-shaped caudal fin typical of modernday speedsters such as the mako and the great white. streamlined body and large tail that helped it swim fast. able to hold their own while sharing the ancient seas with competitors such as giant carnivorous marine reptiles and. In the vast expanse of time following the reign of Cladoselache. predatory whales. and the usual assortment of fins found on modern sharks. Cladoselache is considered to be the granddaddy of all sharks. Yet. a mouth full of sharp teeth. (In fact. The ancient shark is believed to have gone extinct approximately 350 million years ago. Cladoselache and most of its descendants shared one common feature: They were aggressive predators. a torpedo-shaped body. sharks evolved into a multitude of species of different shapes and sizes. later. including Megalodon.

Mesoteras. This bloody scene.) Compared with Cladoselache. Fifteen million years ago. proving that this little shark was indeed a very capable hunter. the fossil trail vanishes. What could have caused the extinction of such a powerful predator? A WOrLD OF chANGE It is a warm sunny day off the coast of what will become North Carolina in another 15 million years. Yet. portrays what was probably a common event in the ancient seas inhabited by Megalodon. After that. Earth’s oceans were quite a bit different from the way they are today. has just calved and nudges her young to the surface to draw in its first breath of air. . A mother right whale.A Long-Lost World 55 of fossilized specimens of Cladoselache. Suddenly a large dorsal and caudal fin of a Carcharodon megalodon breaks the surface of the water and the young calf disappears within seconds in a swirl of red water. By looking at these differences. however. Swallowed whole by a 17 meter giant [Megalodon] shark. Megalodon—surely the ultimate marine predator and master of the underwater world—appears to have vanished off the face of the Earth.6 million years old. we may find clues that provide an explanation for the extinction of Mighty Tooth. described by paleontologist John Clay Bruner. the oldest fossil teeth of Carcharodon megalodon are only about 16 million years old. the Mesoteras calf dies in a scene reminiscent today of adult Great White Sharks feeding on seals off California and Australia. The youngest fossil Megalodon teeth discovered so far are about 1. Megalodon is one of the newer kids on the block.

contained within the rock layers. when it is believed that an asteroid smashed into Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs. periods. The boundaries of the different divisions of the geological time scale represent sudden changes in the types of fossils contained in successive layers of sedimentary rock. and communicate about events during this incredibly long history. geologists talk about eras. The geological time scale allows geologists to label portions of Earth history in much the same way that taxonomists use their classification system to label organisms. and species.5 billion years. Very few areas of Earth’s surface were cold enough Let’s Get Technical: The Geological Time Scale T he Earth has been around a long time: 4. Instead of talking about kingdoms.) These sudden changes in the fossil record often signify major environmental catastrophes that caused the sudden extinction of many different forms of life. such as uranium. For example. the fossil record in older layers is more patchy and incom- . scientists use the geological time scale (also called the geological time table). more manageable blocks of time. Older rock layers are harder to date accurately than younger ones. understand. (The actual age of these boundaries can be determined by measuring the relative amounts of radioactive elements. To make it easier to study.3 million years ago. which lasted from 23. which extended from 408 million years ago to 360 million years ago. families. The most famous such mass extinction occurred 65 million years ago. This catastrophe marks the boundary between the Mesozoic and Cenozoic Eras. the shark Cladoselache lived during the Devonian Period.56 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? When Megalodon appeared on the scene during the Miocene Epoch. however.7 million years ago to 5. Earth’s climate was much warmer than it is today. This scale divides Earth’s history into shorter. Megalodon first appeared in the Miocene Epoch. and epochs. Also.

.A Long-Lost World 57 for water to freeze. Nevertheless. Since almost all of Earth’s water was contained in the ocean. e geological time scale divides and subdivides the 4.5 billion years of Earth’s history into smaller and smaller units of time. sea level was much higher plete than in younger layers. the geological time scale is a convenient tool to use when comparing rocks and fossils of different ages. and there was much less ice at the North and South Poles than there is now.

When calves are born in warm shallows. shallow waters. have very little of the fatty. they would quickly die from the cold. One such sea covered a huge portion of the southeastern coast of the United States. If calves were born in that icy water. female gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) migrate thousands of miles from rich feeding grounds in icy arctic seas in order to give birth in warm. One of the world’s best sources of megalodon teeth is sedimentary rocks from states such as North and South Carolina. So if baby whales were present in these warm seas. shallow lagoons along the Pacific coast of California. Back . For example. it’s reasonable to figure that hungry Megalodons would have been present. too. Scientists don’t think that this is a coincidence. Miocene whales also liked to hang out in these warm. By studying the predatory behavior of another whalehunter. they have enough time to nurse on their mothers’ milk and grow a thick layer of blubber as they slowly migrate north to arctic feeding grounds.58 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? than it is today. They believe that the large number of shark teeth found in these rocks indicates that Megalodon liked to hang out in these warm. namely humans. shallow water near the shore. Why? Recall that fossil whale bones have been found along with those fossil shark teeth. shallow seas. Observations of modern whales suggest why this was the case. called calves. insulating blubber that protects adult whales from the cold water of their frigid feeding grounds. They do this because baby whales. These rocks formed from mud and other materials (along with shark teeth) that settled on the surface of the shallow Miocene seabed. Many kinds of whale give birth in warm. Much land that now lies above sea level actually formed the bottom of shallow Miocene seas covering thousands of square miles. however. we can uncover another possible reason why Megalodons haunted these shallow seas. Apparently.

wait for the protective mother to follow behind. The last ice age occurred during the Pleistocene Epoch and resulted in the formation of huge glaciers in Canada and northern parts of the United States. . possibly ramming the whalers’ boat or smashing it with her tail. and then easily kill her as she became trapped in the shallow water. When a female gave birth in shallow lagoons. whalers sometimes took cruel advantage of the migratory behavior of gray whales. where she could maneuver easily. pull the helpless youngster toward the beach.A Long-Lost World 59 in the 1800s. There have been numerous ice ages in the history of Earth. This was much safer than dealing with an angry mother whale in the open ocean. the whalers would harpoon the calf from shore.

then shallow Miocene seas would have served as both dining room and nursery for the huge shark. bear live young. and Asia. there’s no sense risking being slammed by an enraged mother whale if it’s not necessary.2 m] miniature versions of their parents. (While many species of shark lay eggs. so much water was locked up in the huge northern glaciers— towering sheets of ice up to 1. The Ice Age had arrived. including the great white. toward the end of the Pliocene Epoch. Temperatures worldwide cooled off. The scene depicted by Bruner probably occurred countless times as giant sharks hunted down newborn whales in those shallow Miocene seas.5 m] long. No wonder so many fossil teeth have been found in the southeastern United States! Approximately 3 million years ago. during the Pleistocene Epoch.60 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? Perhaps Mighty Tooth was smart enough to realize that mother whales were less maneuverable in shallow water. After all.) If that was the case. Europe. where huge glaciers grew and spread south. completely . Whale birthing grounds would have been Megalodon magnets. making shallow-water hunting of calves a safer proposition. and snow and ice began to accumulate in ever-greater amounts at the poles. some. Greenland. Earth’s climate took a turn. The Triple Whammy During the peak of the Ice Age. the great white shark. huge sheets of ice covered thousands of square miles of land in North America. give birth in shallow water. Scientists figure that baby Megalodons would have been about 12 feet [3. And that’s not all: Since females of Mighty Tooth’s close relative. Eventually. especially the North Pole. scientists believe that Megalodon might have done the same. White shark newborns are 4-foot-long [1.2 miles (2 km) thick—that the sea level dropped more than 330 feet (100 m).

baddest shark the world had ever known. this warm-water shark had to deal with both colder water and the loss of its favorite places for feeding and giving birth. There was now a newer kid on the block. .A Long-Lost World 61 A group of four killer whales surround their prey—a gray whale mother and calf. competing with Mighty Tooth for the title of Top Predator of the Seven Seas? None other than Orcinus orca: Orca. one that was tough enough to stand up to the biggest. to be precise— and was able to take down even the largest of whale prey. By now. draining many of the shallow Miocene seas that were hangouts for Megalodon. But that’s not all. the killer whale. This new tough guy hunted in packs—pods. Just who was this new tough guy. The group would eventually kill the calf. but the mother was able to escape.

) The pulp is surrounded by a relatively thick layer of a strong. the pulp contains tiny blood vessels and nerve cells. white shark teeth do not. triangular blade). hard substance called dentine. those lovable Sea World clowns who tow divers around the pool. A fossil Megalodon tooth consists of several parts.) A tooth lost by a shark settles on the ocean floor and is eventually covered by the muddy. however. fat tongues. spongy center of the tooth is the pulp. especially when the prey has thick or tough skin. is no big deal to a shark. the root. It’s not uncommon for a shark to lose one or more teeth when feeding. splash spectators in the front row. although only those in the front row are used for biting. more and more material accumulates on top of S . might have beaten out Megalodon for the top spot in the marine food chain and played a part in Mighty Tooth’s extinction. If a front-row tooth gets yanked out by a struggling seal—or boat hull—the tooth behind it in the second row moves forward to replace it. where the root meets the upper part of the tooth (the serrated. The dentine layer is covered by a thin layer of enamel. A lost tooth. Sharks have lost so many teeth over the eons that fossilized shark teeth are among the most common of all fossils. (Megalodon teeth have a bourrelet. and kiss little children with their big. a material that is extremely brittle and hard—harder even than bone. sandy sediment that is deposited in the ocean by rivers. The teeth in the other rows are replacements. Sharks have several rows of teeth. there may be a scarlike mark called the bourrelet. attaches to the jaw. The bottom of the tooth. Over time. The relatively soft.62 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? It’s hard to believe. but the ancestors of Shamu and Namu. (In live sharks. Along the side of the tooth. The enamel is glued to the underlying dentine by a substance called cementum. Let’s Get Technical: Fossil Shark Teeth harks lose a lot of teeth.

These largest members of the dolphin family employ an amazing variety of hunting the tooth. an adult Megalodon would have been able to hold its own against a single 25-foot-long (8 m) killer whale. sedimentary rock containing a trapped fossil shark tooth may be brought to the earth’s surface during mountain-building processes and/or earthquakes. where the rock is weathered by wind and water until the fossil is exposed and. As water is slowly absorbed by the tooth. This is why Richard Ellis and John McCosker comment in their book Great White Shark: “Should someone. water and chemicals in the sediment slowly interact with the materials in the tooth. we would know that the giant shark became extinct quite recently—or is flourishing somewhere in the vastness of the oceans and has simply lost a tooth. Only freshly shed shark teeth are white. fossil teeth are always discolored. dredge up a white Megalodon tooth. taking on a color ranging from creamy peach or yellow to rusty red. As the dentine dissolves. Meanwhile. ultimately. against a pod of several smart. the enamel becomes stained by substances in the surrounding sediment. It probably didn’t stand a chance. To say orcas are smart may be an understatement. speedy orcas.A Long-Lost World 63 One-on-one. then. the dentine gradually swells like a sponge. and then slowly dissolves. . or even black. Eventually. however. perhaps millions of years later.” This entire fossilization process can take up to 100. cracking the thin overlying enamel layer. The increasing weight of this ever-deepening layer of mud and sand eventually compresses the material surrounding the tooth into sedimentary rock. brown.000 years to complete. While this compression proceeds. it is replaced by various minerals that were dissolved in the water. detected by the watchful eye of a fossil-hunting cryptozoologist.

the orca actually jumps out of the water and onto the ice. herd them into a tight circle to cut off escape. boxing it in from all directions. floating chunks of sea ice called ice rafts.2 m) blue whale.) Yet. a hunting killer whale may splash waves of water up onto the ice. orcas have earned the nickname “wolves of the sea. biting chunks of flesh from their helpless victim. (In such a situation. Or it may ram the ice raft from below. such as a big whale. If an orca spots a seal on land close to shore. in frigid climates. grab its meal. orcas have found several ways to get around this seemingly fool-proof escape strategy. When a pod of orcas attacks large prey. it may actually launch itself onto the beach and slide on its belly right up to its terrified target. It’s almost impossible to outsmart them. where it is quickly caught and consumed. Sometimes. tag-team style. the orcas will surround their quarry.64 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? strategies when pursuing prey. Because orcas and wolves both hunt in groups (pods and packs. knocking the seal back into the water. and then go in for the kill. Pinnipeds are among the killer whale’s favorite foods. Sharks are known to be an item on the orca’s menu. orcas surround their prey. respectively). “life raft” might be a more appropriate term. and then make its way back into the water. Seals and sea lions sometimes have the opportunity to employ an escape strategy unavailable to fish and dolphins: They can haul out onto land or. Scientists aboard a Sea World research ship once witnessed such an attack on a 60-foot-long (18. always steering clear of . washing the seal back into the water.” When hunting schools of fish or pods of their smaller dolphin cousins. When a seal seeks refuge on an ice raft. This type of assault is very effective against whales much larger than orcas. and then take turns. so it’s possible that orcas’ Pleistocene ancestors used this whalehunting strategy against Megalodon. tipping it up and causing the seal to slide into the water.

A newborn Megalodon.A Long-Lost World 65 the shark’s dangerous mouth. probably by ramming it and then shaking it to death. whereupon the orca released the carcass and gulped down the liver. aiming for the gills or other vulnerable areas. upset by the shark’s approach. They might also have subdued the giant shark by smashing into it battering ram-style. even though 12 feet (3. In fact. When Pyle arrived on the scene. In 1997. humans have witnessed what could be considered a reenactment of an attack by an orca on a young Megalodon. the shark’s liver squirted out of its tattered body. The hungry shark smelled the sea lion’s blood in the water and came over to investigate. whereupon one of the orcas. What remained of the dead shark slowly sank out of sight. however. was notified by the captain of a tourist boat that he had just witnessed a killer whale attacking a white shark. A few minutes later. What happened next was quite unexpected. when elephant seals gather at the rookeries to breed. Pyle and his colleague Alisa Schulman-Janiger put the pieces together and determined the probable sequence of events that led to the white shark’s demise: A dead sea lion seen floating at the surface (the Farallon Islands are famous for their huge pinniped rookeries) had probably just been killed by one of the orcas. As soon as the orca killed the inquisitive shark. Peter Pyle. dozens of the big sharks normally patrol the nearshore waters. a Point Reyes Bird Observatory biologist stationed at the Farallon Islands off the coast of California.5 m) long. The waters around the Farallon Islands are normally a popular hunting ground for great whites from September through December. looking for food. During these months. would have been a sitting duck for even a lone hungry orca. attacked and killed it. the other white sharks quickly . he saw the smaller of two orcas dragging the carcass of a 10-13 foot (3-4 m) white shark—the exact size of a newborn Megalodon—along the surface of the water.

orcas and white sharks do not get along. They are competitors that hunt the same prey. When the scientists studied Tipfin’s depth data.) It’s likely that Megalodon and the ancestors of today’s killer whales were also fierce competitors for the same reasons. (It’s also possible that white sharks on rare occasions attack baby orcas.66 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? vanished from the area. This disappearance probably took place because the whales’ own food (fish. Shamu and Namu are proof of that. squid. which eventually goes extinct. A male white shark named Tipfin—so named by researchers studying white shark migration—presented an interesting tale. and more) could not survive in the colder climate. . they were surprised to find out that at almost the exact time that witnesses had spotted a huge fish—probably a white shark—that had just been killed by a killer whale. one species often survives at the expense of the other. We know that the ancient orcas survived. and the whales sometimes prey on the sharks. The researchers had attached an electronic “pop-up” tag on Tipfin’s back in order to record the temperature and depth of the water in which he was swimming. They apparently smelled the tattered remains of the dead shark and decided to leave their hunting grounds before they ended up as the orca’s dessert. the fossil record shows that many of the whale species that Megalodon probably preyed upon disappeared during the Ice Age cool-down. As if orcas weren’t enough of a problem for Megalodon. Unfortunately. plankton. We can’t say the same for Mighty Tooth. Three years later. when two species compete for food or other critical resources. The pop-up tag recorded temperature and depth every two minutes for six months and then popped up to the surface (hence its name) and transmitted its recordings to the researchers via satellite. a similar incident occurred at the Farallones. Clearly. Tipfin descended from the surface to a depth of 1.640 feet (500 m) and hightailed it away from the islands.

or do these people have good reason to believe that Mighty Tooth might still exist? As the next section shows. even a ghostly white one. whereas fossil teeth are discolored.A Long-Lost World 67 With all these things happening at the same time. the youngest Megalodon teeth found so far date back to the Pleistocene. competition from orcas. Is this just wishful thinking. it’s hard to determine just what brought about the extinction of Megalodon. more than one million years ago—pretty strong evidence that the shark is now extinct. Most scientists believe that no single factor was responsible for knocking off the giant shark. In any event. anything from a creamy color to almost pure black—stained by the chemicals in the sediment in which they were buried. Recently shed shark teeth are always white. Many ichthyologists believe that the effects of the Ice Age. (As mentioned previously. the ocean is full of surprises.) How do paleontologists know that all the Megalodon teeth that have been found are actually fossils? That’s easy. by the middle of the Pleistocene. Despite this fact. some people refuse to give up hoping that Megalodon still survives somewhere in the vast depths of the world’s oceans. Carcharodon megalodon was gone. . and the disappearance of Megalodon’s preferred prey combined to produce a triple whammy that was just too much for the shark to handle. No white Megalodon teeth have ever been found. some of which would equal the discovery of a living Megalodon.

Mysteries From the Deep Blue Sea
f you have seen the 1993 movie Jurassic Park, you may remember the dropped-jaw look of utter amazement on Dr. Grant’s face when he encounters his first live dinosaur. Speechless and weak in the knees, he crumples to the ground, hardly able to believe what he is seeing. After all, the last of the dinosaurs were supposed to have been wiped out 65 million years ago, when a giant asteroid smashed into Earth. Now, everyone knows that Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park is pure fiction, but does that mean nothing so amazing could possibly happen in the real world? Is there no chance that a species thought to be extinct for millions of years couldn’t have survived undetected, leaving no trace—

Mysteries From the Deep blue sea


Once thought to be extinct, a coelacanth was discovered in the ocean off the coast of South Africa in 1938. Since then, other living specimens have been found, but their sightings are rare, and the fish is classified as an endangered species. Coelacanths are deep-sea creatures that live at depths of up to 2,300 feet (700 m).

not even a single fossil—and then suddenly reappeared, alive and well, before the amazed eyes of the scientific world? As it turns out, something like this actually did happen a number of years ago: An animal that was thought to have gone extinct even before the dinosaurs met their end was found alive and living in—you guessed it!—the deep, dark depths of the ocean. Just what kind of animal pulled off this amazing disappearing act? A fish. Mind you, this was no teeny, tiny guppyof-a-fish that could easily be overlooked in the vast expanse


MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction?

of the ocean. This 5-foot-long (1.5 m), 127-pound (58 kg) lunker, known as a coelacanth (SEE-luh-kanth), was almost as big as the scientist who identified it. It had a big, toothy mouth, huge armorlike scales, and stubby, lobe-shaped fins. The fossil record of lobe-finned fishes petered out during the Cretaceous Period, about 80 million years ago, which is why the discovery of a living coelacanth was so astonishing. It’s worth taking a close look at this unusual fish story, because people who believe Megalodon may still exist feel that the story of the coelacanth supports their stance. If this lobe-finned fish could survive unknown and undetected into modern times, perhaps Megalodon could do the same.

ThE cOELAcANTh’s sTOry

The year was 1938, five years after Loren Grey’s encounter with his “prehistoric monster of the deep” in Case #4. Upon returning to the port town of East London, along the east coast of the nation of South Africa, Hendrick Goosen, captain of the fishing boat Nerine, relayed a message to Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, the curator of the East London Museum. He invited her to come down to the dock to examine the fishes that his crew had just caught in their trawling net. (A trawling net is a huge fish net that is dragged along the bottom of the ocean.) He told Courtenay-Latimer she could buy any of the fishes that she wanted for the museum’s fish collection. Along with the usual assortment of sharks, cod, and other deep-water fishes was an unusual one that CourtenayLatimer had never seen before. It was a large purplish-blue fish with shiny, silvery spots and unusual, lobe-shaped fins. She bought the fish and brought it back to the museum. Unable to identify it, she sent a description of the weird fish to James L.B. Smith, a teacher at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, some 50 miles (80 km) south of East London. Smith, who taught chemistry at the university, was also a fish expert.

S. there was not a shadow of doubt. “Although I had come prepared. bone by bone. a remarkable creature was accidentally caught in the anchor of a U. he knew in an instant that he was staring at a real. Life goes on there just as it did from the beginning. This was no tiny guppy-of-a-fish. honest-to-goodness crossopterygian: a coelacanth! Quoted by Samantha Weinberg in her book A Fish Caught in Time: The Search for the Coelacanth. This discovery means that we may find other fishlike creatures supposedly extinct still living in the sea. We have not. when Smith finally gazed upon the remains of the fish.” he said. it was a true Coelacanth. Courtenay-Latimer’s fish had started to decompose. and the internal organs had been removed and discarded. According to the fossil record. Cladoselache. or lobe-fin. “I stood as if stricken to stone. Nevertheless. however. that first sight hit me like a white-hot blast and made me feel shaky and queer. the first vertebrates (animals with backbones) to crawl out of the water and onto the land. just like the ancient shark. To discover a living lobe-fin would be the scientific find of the century! By the time a very excited Smith arrived in East London. In 1976.” In a newspaper article that he later wrote about his encounter with the coelacanth. .” Some people believe that Megalodon might be one such creature. Navy boat. lobe-fins were thought to have become extinct. Yes. Smith concluded that she was describing a crossopterygian. Smith was obviously thunderstruck by what he saw. my body tingled. fin by fin.Mysteries From the Deep blue sea 71 After researching the information provided by CourtenayLatimer. scale by scale. Many scientists believed this fish might have been the ancestor of amphibians. Man’s influence is as yet but a passing shadow. The coelacanth isn’t the only amazing. crossopterygians first appeared during the Devonian Period. totally surprising fish to come to ichthyologists’ attention in the past 70 years. Unlike sharks. Smith included a bit of advice for his fellow scientists: “We have in the past assumed that we have mastery not only of the land but of the sea.


MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction?

either. Appropriately enough, this fish was actually a shark— a big shark.

In 1976, crewmen aboard the AFB-14, a Navy research vessel, were in for a real surprise when they hauled in the boat’s sea anchors. (A sea anchor is like an underwater parachute that is dragged in the water behind a boat, slowing it down but not stopping it.) They discovered that one of the sea anchors, which had been drifting at a depth of 500 feet (152 m) off the shore of Hawaii, had been swallowed by a huge shark with a large, seemingly oversized head. The shark was more than 14 feet (4.3 m) long and weighed more than 1,500 pounds (680 kg). Its mouth was studded with thousands of tiny teeth and surrounded by thick, fleshy lips.

Let’s Get Technical: Coelacanths
coelacanth is a “living fossil.” The modern-day coelacanth (its scientific name is Latimeria chalumnae) looks almost identical to its fossilized ancestors that lived hundreds of millions of years ago, during the Devonian Period. Its crossopterygian relatives gradually evolved into the first amphibians, some of which eventually evolved into the first reptiles, some of which in turn evolved into the first mammals (the whole process taking a couple hundred million years). The coelacanth itself, however, stayed pretty much just the way it was, a creature obviously very well suited to living the life of a coelacanth. Coelacanths spend the daylight hours resting in caves hundreds of feet beneath the surface. They are nocturnal hunters, leaving the protection of their caves by night and swimming up into shallower water. There, their large eyes help them find their fish prey in the dimly lit water. Coelacanths eat a wide variety of fishes, including


Mysteries From the Deep blue sea


Appropriately dubbed “megamouth” because of its huge mouth, this previously unknown fish turned out to be another filter-feeding shark. In fact, scientists eventually classified it as a distant relative of the much larger filter-feeding basking shark and gave it the name Megachasma pelagios, meaning “big mouth from deep water.” Several more megamouth sharks have been caught in the years since the anchor-eater was caught in 1976. In 1984, a 15-footer (4.6 m) was caught at a depth of 125 feet (38 m) in a fisherman’s net off the coast of California, near Los Angeles. Others have since been found near Japan and Australia. Scientists believe that megamouth is a deep-water filterfeeder, which would explain why it avoided detection for so long. By spending most of its time in the depths, it would have avoided detection by people in boats at the surface. Since it eats plankton and other small critters, it wouldn’t be

eels, rays, and small sharks, which they snatch up with their large, powerful mouths. These primitive-looking animals are obviously very capable hunters. Not surprisingly, fishermen of the Comoros Islands usually catch coelacanths on their fishing lines at night, when the coelacanths are out and about searching for prey. The secretive nature of the coelacanth explains why it remained undiscovered by scientists for so long. If it hadn’t been for Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer’s lucky discovery of that first coelacanth among all the other ordinary fishes hauled in by the trawler Nerine, we might still be unaware that coelacanths have survived into modern times. This is why some people believe that Megalodon may still be around: It may be living a secretive way of life as well, out of the view of humans—although, quite frankly, it’s hard to imagine how 45-footlong (14 m), whale-eating sharks could go unnoticed for long!


MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction?

This stuffed megamouth shark was caught in August 2003 in the Pacific Ocean. This one-of-a-kind stuffed fish was on display at a Japanese museum where curious kids could get an up-close look.

tempted to latch onto large baitfish on a hook the way other open-water predatory fish (such as other sharks, marlin, and swordfish) would. Such a lifestyle is in stark contrast to that of Megalodon, the streamlined, speedy, shallow-water, whale-slaughtering machine which could hardly be expected to remain hidden from view for very long. As if in response to those who believe that Mighty Tooth still survives, author Richard Ellis points out in Great White Shark that a number of megamouths have now been observed, but so far not a single live Megalodon has been sighted. If Megalodon did

at the peak of the elephant seal breeding season.280 miles (3. the great white shark. all the way to Hawaii. Peter Pyle. and Tipfin. particularly around Australia. DEEP-DIvING? Recent research by ichthyologists has revealed some surprising information about the migratory habits of Megalodon’s little cousin. and the east and west coasts of North America. as they suspected. following his close encounter with the shark-eating orca. averaging 43 miles (68 km) per day! He then returned to the Farallones the following November. Two of the sharks stayed near the Farallones. often swimming at a depth of . In the 2000 study in which scientists made the acquaintance of Tipfin (the male white shark mentioned earlier). and several colleagues attached pop-up tags to Tipfin and five other white sharks. South Africa. The researchers discovered that the tagged white sharks spent up to five months of the year swimming in the deep waters of the open ocean. most ichthyologists had assumed that white sharks spent almost all of their time moving back and forth between feeding and breeding grounds located in shallow coastal waters. What surprised the scientists was what happened after the seals dispersed at the end of breeding season: Most of the tagged sharks headed offshore into the deeper waters of the Pacific Ocean. They now know that this is not the case. For years.650 km) due west. but three of the sharks swam to open water several hundred miles to the southwest.Mysteries From the Deep blue sea 75 still exist. The scientists discovered that. swam 2. one would expect it to be encountered at least as frequently as the secretive megamouth. sharks that visit the Farallon Islands during elephant seal breeding season stay near the shore and rarely dive deeper than 90 feet (27 m). ichthyologist Barbara Block of the Tuna Research and Conservation Center.

“What they were doing out there is a mystery.” As impressive as Tipfin’s journey to and from Hawaii was. After all.000 miles (11. Nicole. or a move to feed on different prey.99% certain. Nicole was one of 32 white sharks tagged in November of 2003 by scientists from the Marine and Coastal Management Department of South Africa. According to Burney Le Boeuf. such a long migration suggests a possible rendezvous for mating. but scientists know that she returned to South African waters the next summer: They spotted her uniquely marked dorsal fin—identical to photos taken the year before—slicing through the waves along the South African coast in August of 2004. but not 100%—not until we’ve thoroughly searched the world’s oceans. perhaps. While the sharks commonly migrated up and down the east coast of South Africa. We can be 99.000 feet (305 m). a female white shark tagged in the shallow waters near pinniped rookeries off the coast of South Africa. no one can state with 100% certainty that Megalodon does not live in the abyss.200 feet (976 m). if Tipfin. Nicole’s pop-up tag detached and floated to the surface while she was in Australian waters. and other white sharks have been found to spend a lot of time hidden from view in the deep water of the open ocean. nearly 7. it pales in comparison to the record-setting voyage undertaken by Nicole.200 km) away! During her 99-day voyage. Since they were hunting for seals when tagged. and . The results of these studies of white shark migration might encourage people to believe that Megalodon still exists. Nicole headed due east and swam all the way to Australia.76 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? approximately 1. Nicole often swam at the incredible depth of more than 3. top to bottom. one of the researchers involved in the study. who is to say that Megalodon doesn’t do the same? The truth of the matter is. Why did those sharks travel such long distances in the open ocean? No one knows for sure.

Examples include the white-backed tapir from India. the African pygmy hippo in 1849. and the mountain gorilla.Mysteries From the Deep blue sea 77 come up empty. in 1903. Of particular value is information provided by people who live where the cryptid hangs out. and on TV documentaries were known to native cultures for countless generations prior to their discovery by scientists and explorers from Europe and elsewhere. Still. “advanced” cultures from other parts of the world. located off the east coast of Africa. the lobe-fin was not unknown to natives of the Comoros Islands. swimming. or flying in zoos. we should have seen it—or at least some of its huge. China’s giant panda in 1869. Ellis’s reasoning is hard to argue with: If Megalodon were still around. the largest of all the apes. “discovered” in 1816. By noting instances such as these. it is obvious why cryptozoologists begin their cryptid quests by gathering as much . Many animals now commonly seen running. The story of the coelacanth is a case in point. This example is proof positive that native people of so-called “primitive” cultures are likely to know more about the natural world that they work and live in than do highly educated scientists of modern. on the pages of nature magazines. Recall from the preface that the first step in any cryptozoological investigation involves gathering as much information about the cryptid as possible. white teeth—by now. Fishermen from the Comoros occasionally catch coelacanths on their fishing lines. a distant relative of the rhinoceros. Even though scientists were totally convinced that coelacanths were long extinct until Courtenay-Latimer’s surprising discovery. LOrD OF ThE DEEP One other point needs to be presented before we close the book on Megalodon. They even have a name for the lobe-fin: gombessa. The coelacanth isn’t the only animal discovered by scientists long after it became known to local inhabitants.

.78 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? Many animals have been discovered by scientists of the western world in the last two hundred years. Examples include the whitebacked tapir (top) and the African pygmy hippo (bottom).

maybe. As unbelievable as such a beast would appear to modern science. the front pages of newspapers throughout the world scream out with the headline “Cryptozoologist Captures ‘Lord of the Deep’ ”. But what about the lobstermen’s. someday. these suspicious-sounding stories are based on actual sightings of that mysterious creature known in some places as the Lord of the Deep. actually happened. if anything. It’s a traditional belief that goes back many generations. or perhaps something totally new to science. They will probably happen again. crewmen’s. History has taught us that such things have happened before. we shouldn’t be totally surprised if. Even though it’s a long shot. What does all this have to do with Megalodon? It just so happens that native fishermen of some islands in the South Pacific believe in the existence of a 100-foot-long (30 m) sharklike creature that they call the Lord of the Deep. and captain’s tales? Even though the evidence—or lack thereof—casts a cloud of doubt and suspicion over the truth and accuracy of these accounts. just maybe. The point is. The stories related by Zane and Loren Grey appear to be cases of mistaken identity. It might also make one wonder whether some of those cases we’ve explored are not quite so far-fetched after all. next to some beached marine monster—perhaps a gigantic shark. After all. . one can’t help but wonder if there is more than just a grain of truth behind this belief.Mysteries From the Deep blue sea 79 information as possible from people who are neighbors of their quarry. they can’t be ruled out with absolute certainty. Such a headline would be accompanied by a photo of a person smiling while standing in the sand at ocean’s edge. perhaps a whale. we weren’t there to witness what.

white shark with a taste for lobster. all-white 80 A . even though marine mammals. are probably this shark’s preferred prey. The lobstermen’s tale (Case #1) describes an incredibly huge (between 115. for stealthy predators such as the great white and. The all-white coloration claimed for this fish.and 300-foot-long. however. or 35. especially whales. presumably. rather than the exception. for Megalodon. So this part of the account is believable. suggest that Mighty Tooth might indeed make a meal of the lobstermen’s catch.and 91-m-long). and a brief summary of our findings is now in order. Studies of the great white shark. Countershading is the rule. flies in the face of what scientists know about fish color patterns. megalodon’s closest living relative. A monstrously huge.7 Final Report: Megalodon ll the Megalodon data has been collected and analyzed.

the coincidence in the timing of the telling of this story and the publication of Case #1 in David Stead’s Sharks and Rays of Australian Seas suggests that the crewmen’s tale is simply a copycat hoax. the front teeth of a shark the size reported in this case were calculated to be up to 3 feet (91 cm) long. beefy version of the great white. The accounts by Zane Grey and his son Loren of the huge sharks they encountered on their South Pacific fishing excursions describe sharks that look very much like whale sharks. which look very different from great whites. The author’s and teenager’s tales (Cases #3 and #4. respectively) are both clear-cut cases of mistaken identity. The problem with the shark’s color and size. Since the largest of the hundreds of Megalodon teeth that have been found to date is barely 7 inches (18 cm) long. Finally.Final report: Megalodon 81 shark would have an awfully hard time sneaking up on intelligent. whales. Furthermore. Loren’s mention of a blotch of yellow water near the shark he saw is the real clincher. the whale shark’s preferred food. and for pretty much the same reasons. The white color and the incredible size claimed for the fish in this account make for a story as hard to believe as Case #1. sharp-eyed. The crewmen’s tale (Case #2) does not fare any better under careful analysis. makes the lobstermen’s tale a poor source of evidence justifying belief in the modern-day existence of Megalodon. the possibility that shark tooth collectors could have overlooked such huge teeth would seem extremely unlikely. combined with a possible financial motive to make up such a wild story to explain the costly loss of the ship owner’s lobster traps. Comparative studies of the teeth of Megalodon and the great white shark indicate that Megalodon looked like a supersized. . by using Gottfried’s formula. That yellow smudge was almost certainly a cloud of plankton. Although there does not appear to be a monetary motive for making up this tale.

Florida. two children play with the famous lead character at Universal Studios. . In this photo. people have been captivated by the thought of a giant shark that stalks the seas. such as the ferocious creature in the blockbuster film Jaws.82 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? Throughout history.

it is not surprising that most scientists (including many cryptozoologists) believe that Megalodon is extinct. There is no way the information extracted from these five cases can override two important facts: first. some of it conflicts with known facts about shark size and coloration. no actual specimen of Megalodon. To sum things up. and #5) are unverifiable at best and hoaxes at worst. and while some of it agrees with what scientists know about shark behavior (for example. In addition. Three of the accounts (Cases #1. appears to have saved any of the extremely valuable 4-inch-long teeth that were reportedly found stuck in the cutter’s hull. where the giant sharks sighted were almost certainly whale sharks and not “man-eating monsters. dead or alive. the .5 million years old. all of the Megalodon teeth found to date are fossils no less than 1. as it implies that the cutter Rachel Cohen was attacked by a huge shark with a 6-foot-wide mouth. That mouth size is appropriate for a shark the size of a large Megalodon. has ever been found. The evidence obtained from all five cases is strictly hearsay.” With meager evidence such as this. and nothing more. Therefore. . the source for the story provided no references that could be checked for accuracy and honesty. . On top of that. #2. the great white. and second. the whole story is unfortunately just that: a story .Final report: Megalodon 83 The captain’s tale (Case #5) is an interesting account. scientists have come up with a very convincing explanation for Megalodon’s probable demise: the triple whammy effect of the Ice age (which resulted in cooler water temperatures and the disappearance of shallow seas). and two (Cases #3 and #4) are obvious cases of mistaken identity. attacks on lobster traps and boats). however. No one. and the reported attack on the cutter’s propeller is entirely consistent with the known behavior of Mighty Tooth’s little cousin. we’ve analyzed all five eyewitness accounts of possible Megalodon sightings.

2009. but the costly fossil did not sell that day. disappearance of the shark’s favorite whale prey. but its fossilized teeth can be found all over the world— on the shelves of fossil dealers. Prices posted for these FPO image A Christie’s auctioneer oversees the auction of a giant Carcharodon megalodon shark jaw at Christie’s house in Paris on April 7.84 MEGALODON: Fact or Fiction? Let’s Get Technical: Shark Teeth for Sale M egalodon may have disappeared from the world’s oceans. we must conclude that there is no reason to believe Megalodon still exists—except in hopeful imaginations. Still. and fierce competition from the ancestors of the killer whale. The jaw was part of a collection of prehistoric fossils. the stories of megamouth and the coelacanth show that the ocean is . After taking all the above findings into consideration. Megalodon teeth are among the most popular items purchased by fossil collectors.

The enamel in the most valuable specimens has beautiful color patterns that rival those seen in fine jewelry and gemstones.Final report: Megalodon 85 teeth depend on their size. and can range from $10 for a 1. What do you think? . Although Christie’s sold the ichthyosaur skeleton for an impressive $242. sharp serrations along the edges. but there are exceptions. no one bought the Megalodon jaws.8-cm) weathered.000. (Reconstructed Megalodon jaws are models made of fiberglass. chipped. color. and/or cracked specimen. to $7. eye-catching necklaces. some dealers polish little Megalodon teeth and mount them as shimmering pendants in unique. wide-open jaws stood 7. Fossil dealers usually sell their Megalodon fossils one tooth or necklace at a time.652.2 m) tall and had an estimated value of well over $200.000 for a 6-inch (15-cm) tooth in pristine condition— having nice. the huge.2 feet (2.) Adorned with 168 fossil teeth. those pricey teeth apparently threatened to take too big a bite out of fossil collectors’ wallets.5-inch (3. which is why some people continue to believe that there is at least one more great big secret lurking in the depths of the deep blue sea: a 50-foot-long (15 m) locomotive with a mouth full of butcher knives. In April 2009. and condition. and few if any cracks or chips in the enamel. the worldfamous auction house Christie’s conducted its third annual Natural History exhibit and auction in its Paris gallery. In fact. pretty darned good at keeping secrets. Displayed alongside spectacular fossilized skeletons of an ichthyosaur (an extinct marine reptile) and other prehistoric animals were the amazingly lifelike reconstructed jaws of a large Megalodon.

the oxygen-carrying molecule in blood cells) Biomolecule Blade The triangular top portion of a shark tooth. it helps to stabilize the fish as it swims. a class is composed of closely related taxonomic orders. A chamber or cavity beneath the ventral surface of a shark’s body (also found in other fishes. near the base of the tail. that detect weak electrical fields. fingerlike projection used to introduce sperm into a female’s cloaca Class One of the levels of taxonomic classification of organ- isms. amphibians. such as those produced by the contracting muscles of other animals Anal fin A small fin located on a fish’s ventral surface. and 86 Cloaca . located in the skin of the head and lower jaw. hemoglobin. located between the root and blade Camouflage Caudal fin A disguise that helps an animal blend in with its surroundings in order to avoid detection The tail fin of a fish that is used to propel the fish through the water layer to the inner dentine layer of a tooth Cementum A gluelike material that attaches the outer enamel Circumstantial evidence Evidence that relates to the subject under investigation in a roundabout or indirect way Clasper The part of a pelvic fin of male sharks and rays that is modified into a long. A molecule produced by a living organism (for example. above the root of the tooth Bourrelet A scarlike mark on the side of the some shark teeth.Glossary Abyss A bottomless or very great depth Ampullae of Lorenzini A network of tiny structures. and closely related classes are in turn grouped together into a phylum.

87 Compress To squeeze or squish together Countershading A color pattern in which a fish’s dorsal surface is dark in color. some fishes possess a second. and lobsters) Crustacean A type of invertebrate that has a hard shell and Cryptid A “hidden” animal that some people believe exists. such as the coelacanth. that possesses fleshy. jointed limbs (for example. lobe-shaped fins. outermost. near the tail fin. shrimp. extremely hard layer of a tooth Epoch The smallest division of the geological time scale. eggs. and sperm. used here to refer to the upper surface or “back” of an animal Dorsal fin A large single. even though there is insufficient evidence to prove its existence Cryptozoology The study of unknown or “hidden” animals Dentine A hard.Glossary reptiles) that receives waste from the digestive system. or unpaired. Electrosense A sensory system that can detect electrical fields produced by the cells of living animals Enamel The thin. located between the outer enamel layer and the inner pulp Dispersed Scattered or spread out in different directions Dorsal Upper or top. this pattern makes the fish difficult to detect whether viewed from above or below. some . crossopterygians evolved hundreds of millions of years ago and are believed to be the ancestors of amphibians. epochs divide geological periods into shorter “chunks” of time. or live young from the reproductive system. Credibility The state of being believable or reliable Crossopterygian A primitive lobe-finned fish. each era is composed of smaller divisions called periods. smaller dorsal fin farther along the back. and its ventral surface is light in color. Era The largest of the divisions of the geological time scale. fin on the back of a fish that helps stabilize the fish when it swims. bony layer in a tooth. these products exit the body through the cloacal opening located between the pelvic fins. crabs.

Extinct No longer in existence Family One of the levels of taxonomic classification of organ- isms. Filter feeder An organism that feeds on much tinier organisms that it strains out of the water Fossil A preserved or mineralized body part or trace (such as a footprint). found in sedimentary rock. One of the levels of taxonomic classification of organisms. a family is composed of closely related genera. a genus is composed of closely related species. comblike structure in a gill that strains small food organisms from water as it passes through the gills Gill raker Gill slit An opening along the side of the head of a shark where water that has entered the mouth exits from the body after passing through the gills Ichthyologist A scientist who studies fishes Invertebrate An animal without a backbone (for example. and closely related families are in turn grouped together into an order. and crustaceans) Kingdom One of the levels of taxonomic classification of organisms. and closely related genera are in turn grouped together into a taxonomic family. it is composed of a network of pressure-sensitive nerve cells (neuromasts) on the head and sides of the fish. the process of becoming a fossil is called fossilization. Lateral line A sensory system in fishes that detects changes in . which are composed of smaller periods. more manageable blocks of time. water pressure. composed of even smaller epochs. Genus (plural: genera) Geological time scale A scale or table that divides Earth’s history into shorter. and an object that has become a fossil is said to have fossilized.88 Glossary of which are in turn composed of even smaller divisions called epochs. a kingdom is composed of closely related phyla. worms. in turn. which are. this history is divided into eras. Gill A feathery-looking respiratory (breathing) organ that extracts life-giving oxygen from the water A stiff. insects.

in male sharks. which would otherwise be difficult or impossible to see beneath the surface. . the buoy signals the location of the objects. in the water Nasal capsule Neuromast A pressure-sensitive nerve cell found in the lateral line system Order One of the levels of taxonomic classification of organ- isms. such as blood. located near the opening of the cloaca. change in the seasons. such as a lobster trap. Migration Traveling from one region to another with the Mooring line A rope that connects an object on the sea floor. Period One of the divisions of the geological time scale.Glossary 89 Leviathan A huge creature Marine biologist A scientist who studies life in the ocean Marker buoy A float that is attached to lobster traps or other objects on the sea floor by means of a mooring line. a phylum is composed of closely related classes. Paleontologist A scientist who studies fossils Pectoral fin One of the paired fins equivalent to arms that are used for steering and maintaining balance Pelvic fin One of the paired fins equivalent to legs. period may be composed of two or more smaller divisions called epochs. a Phylum (plural: phyla) One of the levels of taxonomic classification of organisms. which are used to introduce sperm into the female’s cloaca. and closely related orders are in turn grouped together into a class. to a marker buoy floating on the surface above A tiny chamber connected to a shark’s nostril that contains sensory cells that can detect biomolecules. an order is composed of closely related taxonomic families. and closely related phyla are in turn grouped together into a kingdom. the pelvic fins are modified into fingerlike structures called claspers. and two or more periods may be combined into a larger division known as an era.

some seals and sea lions breed by the hundreds on rocky rookeries in the ocean. used here to refer to the lower or “belly” surface of an animal . such as a great white shark. scooping up fishes.90 Glossary Pinniped A seal or sea lion Plankton Tiny organisms that float or drift about in the water Predator An organism that eats other organisms Pristine As something was in its original state Pulp The spongy. the pulp of a living tooth contains small blood vessels and nerve cells. A special structure in the back of the eye that reflects light onto light-detecting cells of the retina. water entering the spiracle passes over the gills and then exits through the gill slits. closely related species are grouped together into a genus. allowing an animal to see in very dim light Tapitum lucidum Taxonomist A scientist who classifies organisms Trawling net A huge fishing net that is dragged along the bottom of the ocean. innermost part of a tooth. stones. mud. and silt on the bottom of rivers. Quarry The animal chased in a hunt Reconstructed Made over or rebuilt to look like the original Rendezvous A meeting place Retina The light-sensitive inner layer of the eye Rookery A breeding area for animals that live in groups. The portion of a tooth that is beneath the blade and attached to the jaw Root Sedimentary rock A rock formed by the settling and com- pacting of soil particles. lakes. and oceans Semicircular canal Species A structure in the ear that helps an animal to maintain balance and coordinate movement A particular type of organism. Spiracle A small opening behind a shark’s eye. crabs. and other organisms that live on or near the seabed Ventral Lower or bottom.

birds. and thawing.Glossary 91 Vertebrate Weather An animal with a backbone. reptiles. rain. . fishes. freezing. etc. amphibians. and mammals are all vertebrates. sunlight. To be worn away by exposure to wind.

Budker. Cartmell. 2000. The Private Life of Sharks: The Truth Behind the Myth. ———. A.) Gramling. (Sunderland. Greenwell. Paul. editor. 1980. Evolution of the Vertebrates. Edwin H. 1980. New York: Simon and Schuster. The Life of Sharks. 1978. Peter. McCosker. 2003. Ann Arbor. Let’s Go Fossil Shark Tooth Hunting. Burton. Clay. Jurassic Park. Douglas J. “Scariest Sharks. Then and Now. Klimley. 1974.. Heuvelmans.: Natural Science Research. Mass. Universal City. The Life and Death of Whales. The Secret Life of Sharks. Futuyama. Colbert. “The Birth and Early History of Cryptozoology. Crichton. Calif. 2005. B. 1 (1985): 5. Stanford. Only Distant Cousins.: Sinauer Associates. Michael. 1991. Evolution. 2000. “Second Megamouth Shark Found. Robert. Calif.: Universal Studios. 92 . Mechanicsburg.” Earth 54 (2009): 13. Bright. J. New York: Universe Books. Ellis. New York: Random House. PA: Stackpole Books. New York: John Wiley and Sons. Richard. Mich. Bernard. Richard. Peter.: Stanford University Press.” Cryptozoology 3 (1984): 1–30.” ISC Newsletter 4. and J. Jaws.BiBlioGraPhy bOOks AND ArTIcLEs Benchley. 1971. Carolyn. Great White Shark: The Definitive Look at the Most Terrifying Creature of the Ocean. “What is Cryptozoology?” Cryptozoology 1 (1982): 1–12. No. Michael. New York: Columbia University Press.

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WEb sITEs Answers. Sydney. Parker. R. Barry. The Field Guide to Geology. Steven. Australia: Time-Life Books.further resourCes bOOks Busbey. 2002. John D. 1996. New York: Simon & Schuster.G. 96 . Miranda. Cox.J.answers. A Visual Introduction to Sharks. along with a history of its development by famous geologists such as James Hutton and Georges Cuvier. Colin Harrison. Geological timescale http://www. The Nature Company Guides: Rocks and Fossils. Willowdale. New York: Diagram Visual Information. The Encyclopedia of Sharks. and Douglas Palmer. Sharks. The Simon & Schuster Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Creatures. Lambert. and David Roots. David. Brian Gardner. III. Ontario: Firefly Books. 1999. Skates and Rays. New York: Facts on File. 1987. New York: Checkmark Books. The Devil’s Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America’s Great White Sharks. Stevens. New York: Henry Holt. Arthur B. London: Doring Kindersley. Susan. 1998. 1999. Bernard. Sharks and Other Scary Sea Creatures. Paul Willis. Casey. and Jane Parker. This site contains a very detailed version of the geological time scale. Stonehouse. 2002. Robert R. Savage. 2005.

97 .edu/fish/ video-00. FossilGuy.Further resources Coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) This Web site is devoted to sharks. and shark conservation. Cryptozoology http://www. site includes video of a live coelacanth swimming in the ocean.flmnh. Ichthyology at the Florida Museum of Natural History http://www.sharkresearchcommittee.htm This site provides detailed descriptions of dozens of famous cryptids.arkive. especially species dangerous to http://www. It has a lot of information about the biology and behavior of the great white shark.pibburns.arkive.htm This education-based site is loaded with information about shark biology. as well as lists of popular fossil collecting sites. shark attacks. Shark Research Committee.html This site contains lots of information about this unusual Here’s a Web site for a shark conservation organization that educates the public about the value of sharks and promotes research dealing with shark biology and conservation. also includes video of divers swimming with a live megamouth. Megamouth Shark (Megachasma pelagios) ReefQuest Centre for Shark Research http://www.fossilguy.elasmo-research.html Here you can find a lot of information about the biology of this rare Look here to find information about fossils and fossil collecting. including Megalodon and many other hidden animals.

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26–27.index A AFB-14. 80 Comoros Islands. John D. 66 countershading. 35 Cladoselache. overview of. 72 cryptids. 13 Carcharodon carcharias. 83 bourrelet. 48 C camouflage. 34–35. John Clay. 43–44 coelacanths. 75–77 dentine.C.. 70–72. 6–8 Cryptozoology Review. 83 caudal fins. 9–10. 32. 24–26. 81 D 99 deep water. 80–81 Nicole and. 80–81 Crichton. 24–26. 46 blade. 80 Courtenay-Latimer. 14 Cleveland Shales. 43–51. 10 Biology of Sharks and Rays web site. 40–41. 19 coast guard cutters. 72–73 American Museum of Natural History. attacks on. 15. 12–13. 53–55 climate. in Miocene Epoch. 75 blood. 8 circumstantial evidence.. 77 crayfish men. 48–49 of fossilized teeth. 77 competition. 7. 15 cartilage. 62 Bruner. 26–27. Marjorie. 42 Benchley. 6 cryptozoology. Barbara. 56. 62 Cetorhinus maximus. 29–33.. B. 63 of great white sharks. 68 crossopterygians. 33. 9. 18 Carcharodon megalodon. 19 cementum. 47 anaconda snakes. defined. 70–73. 48–50 coloration of boat hulls. 55. 53–55. 42 Cartmell. 34–35. 62 Block. 73. defined. 71. 80 of whale sharks. 62–63 Devonian Cleveland shales. 33 Burns. 76 Rachel Cohen attack and. 33 B basking sharks. 8 anal fins. 38–39. 46 boats. 56–58 cloaca. 77 Collier. 40–41 Christie’s Auction House. 85 Chupacabras. 43–44. 31 Carcharocles genus. 81 lobstermen’s tale and. 73. 17–18 ampullae of Lorenzini. Michael. 53–55 . Ralph S. 17 biomolecules. 71 claspers. 7. 33–34. 19 Australia crewmen’s tale and. 19 classes. Peter. 60 buoys. 48–49.

63. 47–48 Ellis. 77 Gottfried. 14 Farallon Islands. defined. 20. 80 migration of. 81 Grey. Michael. 53 Eschritius robustus. 45–48. 75–77 orcas and. 75 filter feeders. 77 Goosen. 51 hemoglobin. 50–51. Zane. 10 Jurassic Park (Crichton). 64–66 overview of. 14 . 46. defined. 35 Great White Shark (Ellis and McCosker). 48–49 I G genera. 56–57 gill rakers. 75 kingdoms. 60–61. 56 Erie. 13. 56 eras. Loren. 19. 21 Heuvelmans. 81 fossil record Cladoselache and. 14 geological time scale. 56. pygmy. 40. 36–39. 19. 13. 62. 29–33. 65. Lake. 71 formulas. 27–29. 85 epochs. 74–75 enamel. 42 glaciers. 37. 61–66. 64 ichthyologists. defined. 15 teeth of. 6 hippos. 70–72 gorillas. 30–31. 44–50 coloration of. 68 K killer whales. 84–85 h hearing. 72 dorsal fins. 53–55 geological time scale and. 66–67. Bernard. 60 taxonomy of. 20. 60–61 gombessa. 83 ice rafts. 38 A Fish Caught in Time: The Search for the Coelacanth (Weinberg). 58–60 eyes. 15–21. 85 Isurus genus. 81 E ears. 19 gray whales. 21 j jaws. 56–57 teeth. 77 hornsharks. 19. 42. 46 electrosense. 42 gill slits. 15–21. 13 Isurus oxyrinchus. mathematical.100 Index Devonian Period. 85 Jaws (Benchley). 58–60 Great Barrier Reef. 26–27. 21 hull coloration. 34. Richard. jaws and. 27. 72 F families. 73 fins. 10–12 shallow water and. 63. 21 Grey. 62–63. 18 boat attacks by. 39–41. 46 hearsay evidence. 30–31. 66. Hendrick. 74–75 great white sharks anatomy of. 46 Heterodontus francisci. 12 ichthyosaur skeleton. 81 Ice Age. 19 gills. 45. 17.

76 marine biologists. 40. 7 neuromasts. 75. 45–46. Aldan. 22. 61–66. 63 Megachasma pelagios. 38 pelvic fins. 14 pinnipeds as prey. 75–77 Miocene Epoch. 18 nostrils. 17 mass extinctions. 56 Maunganui (S. 61–66 orders. 43–44 rookeries. scientific. 75 Orcinus orca. 30 . John E. 8 right whales. Burney. detection of. defined. 6 Lorenzini. Ernest. 26–27. 65 pop-up tags. 73 Rachel Cohen attack. John. 21 Marine and Coastal Management Department of South Africa. 39–41 McCosker. 77 pectoral fins. 66. 33–34 lobster fishermen. 19 periods. 8 mooring lines. 33 Mokele-mbembe. 40. 33. 77 Palmer. 46 Nerine. 56–57 Roesch. 48 mako sharks. 48 pulp.. 10 marker buoys. 72 Le Boeuf. Ben. 76 Let’s Go Fossil Shark Tooth Hunting (Cartmell). Herman. Peter. 24–26.S. 55 rocks. 60–61 Point Reyes Bird Observatory. 46 nomenclature. 18–19. 56 phyla. 81 Pleistocene Epoch.). 77 Pyle. 73 Megalania. Peter. 7 megamouth. 47 O orcas. 83 references. 19. 47 Nicole (shark). ampullae of. 80–81 Loch Ness Monster. 76 night vision. 56–58 Moby Dick. 29–30. 49–50 Kongamato. 10. 33 reptiles. 45–46 panda bears. 62 pygmy hippos. 47 Latimeria chalumnae. 33 Martin. 62 nasal capsules. 33. 20–21 Ri. 42. 72 retina. 65. 33 Mesoteras. 13. 72–75 Melville. 46 Rhincodon typus. 58. 50–51. R. 76 plankton. 45–48. defined. 14 P M MacLeod. 55 migration.Index Klimley. 14–15 nose. 70–72. 75 R N Namu. 43–44. 76 propellers. 46 101 L lateral lines. 47 mountain gorillas. 33 motion. 64.

72–75 as prey of orcas. 7. 46–48 Shamu. 30–31. 62 Ropen.B. 49–50 tapetum lucidum. 81 formula for calculation of size of.. 14–15 sea anchors. 81 whalers. 63 Weinberg. 72–73 sea level. 36–41 species. 81 size predictions. Samantha. 37. 70–71 snouts. 20. 12–13 Rachel Cohen attack and. 46 Smith. 83 sale of fossilized. 47 weathering.102 Index roots. 62–63. 56–57. 20–21. 46 tapirs.. 46 senses. overview of. 48–49 thunderbird. David G. 8 taxonomy. 75 S V vertebrates. 27–29. 75 tongue. 37. 24–26. 48–49 sharks. 15–21 territoriality. 14–15 teeth attack on boat and. 31 fossilized. 84–85 study of. defined. 47 trawling nets. 18–19. 66. Alisa. 50–51. 7 time scale. 81 skin. 58–59 whales as prey. 19–21. 50–51. 55. 57–58. 58–60 wolves. 50–51. 60–61 sedimentary rocks. 22–23. 65 scientific nomenclature. 56–57 Tipfin. 7 taste buds. 43–44. geological. 46 W T tail slapping. 33. 30–31. 81 Sucuriju. 71 whale sharks. 63 semicircular canals. 77 Tasmanian wolf. 47 smell. 64 . 14 spiracles. See also Specific sharks external anatomy of. 64–66 Sharks and Rays of Australian Seas (Stead). 10–11. 47 touch. 24–26. 84–85 of great white sharks. 71 vision. 62 Shark Research Committee. 7 Schulman-Janiger. 19 Stead. James L. 58. 44 calculation of body length from. 8 thylacine. 67. 70 Tuna Research and Conservation Center. 12–13 of Megalodon. 39–42. 40–41 South Pacific. 18–19 megamouth.

smack dab in the middle of Cryptid Country. 103 . with the lair of the Lake Erie Monster to the north and the hideout of the Grassman. Emmer lives with his family in Bay Village. He was a member of the International Society of Cryptozoology for several years. Ohio’s Bigfoot. to the south. He was previously an aquarist at the Cleveland Aquarium and a zookeeper at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Ohio.aBout the author RICK EMMER is a substitute science and math teacher for the Avon Lake City School District in northeast Ohio. He has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Mount Union College and a master’s degree in biology from John Carroll University.