World - Research Reveals How Teeth Functioned and Evolved in Giant Mega-Sharks
A pioneering study by University of Bristol researchers finds that the evolution of teeth in the giant prehistoric shark Megalodon and its relatives was a by-product of becoming huge, rather than an adaptation to new feeding habits.
The iconic extinct Megalodon was the largest shark to ever roam the seas. Its name translates to ‘big tooth’, making reference to its massive teeth, which represent the most abundant fossil remains of the species. They are broad and triangular, nothing like the curved, blade-like teeth of the closest relatives of Megalodon.
The differences in tooth shape seen in this group of giant sharks has been traditionally thought to reflect a shift in diet. While the oldest relatives probably used their teeth to pierce small and fast-moving prey like fish, Megalodon most likely used them to bite off big chunks of meat from marine mammals or dismember such prey with powerful lateral head shakes.
In the new study published today in the journal Scientific Reports, scientists used computational tools to understand how the dentitions of these megatooth sharks functioned during feeding.
Antonio Ballell, Ph.D. student at the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, said: “We applied engineering techniques to digitally simulate how different tooth shapes handled bite forces and loads resulting from lateral head movements.