Body dimensions of the extinct giant shark Otodus megalodon: A 2D reconstruction

Jack A Cooper, Catalina Pimiento*, Humberto G Ferrón, Michael J Benton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

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Abstract

Inferring size of extinct animals is fraught with danger, especially when they were much larger than their modern relatives. Such extrapolations are particularly risky when allometry is present. The extinct giant shark †Otodus megalodon is known almost exclusively from fossilised teeth. Estimates of †O. megalodon body size have been made from its teeth, using the great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) as the only modern analogue. This can be problematic as the two species likely belong to different families, and the position of the †Otodus lineage within Lamniformes is unclear. Here, we infer †O. megalodon body dimensions based on anatomical measurements of five ecologically and physiologically similar extant lamniforms: Carcharodon carcharias, Isurus oxyrinchus, Isurus paucus, Lamna ditropis and Lamna nasus. We first assessed for allometry in all analogues using linear regressions and geometric morphometric analyses. Finding no evidence of allometry, we made morphological extrapolations to infer body dimensions of †O. megalodon at different sizes. Our results suggest that a 16 m †O. megalodon likely had a head ~4.65 m long, a dorsal fin ~1.62 m tall and a tail ~3.85 m high. Morphometric analyses further suggest dorsal and caudal fins adapted for fast predatory swimming, but slower, more sustained long-distance swimming.
Original languageEnglish
Article number14596 (2020)
Number of pages9
JournalScientific Reports
Volume10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sep 2020

Keywords

  • Allometry
  • body dimensions
  • Lamniformes
  • Megalodon
  • morphometrics
  • Otodontidae

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