Extinct 3 million years ago, Megalodon shark’s new feeding habits discovered
A team of researchers from Princeton University in the US have gone back millions of years to obtain new insights into the diet of the giant shark Megalodon, named after the size of its teeth, from a fossil of its teeth.
The name Megalodon comes from the fact that sharks have megatooth-large teeth that can be larger than a human hand, and analysis of nitrogen isotopes on the fossil shows that the shark was one of the largest predators ever measured, according to a paper published in Science Advance.
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When scientists analyzed the nitrogen isotopes in the tooth fossils of the Megalodon shark, which became extinct about 3 million years ago, they found that the diet of these large fish was not like that of large herbivorous or filter-feeding species, such as elephants and whale sharks, which feed by filtering the suspended contents of the water in different ways, but that their diet also included other predators.
Emma Kast, the lead researcher of the study, says in the report on the study published on Princeton University’s official website “The evidence we gathered from nitrogen isotopes suggests that Megalodon and some of its ancestors were at the top of the food chain in prehistoric times. This is what scientists call the highest (trophic level) in the food chain. Indeed, their trophic level was so high that they must have eaten other predators in a complex food web.”
To reach this conclusion, the researchers used a new technique to measure nitrogen isotopes in the sharks’ teeth.
Ecologists have long known that the more nitrogen isotopes an organism has, the more likely it is to have higher levels of nutrition, the academic journal Sharq al-Awsat reported. But scientists had not previously been able to measure the small amounts of nitrogen preserved in the enamel layer of the teeth of extinct predators. Now the research team has made measurements using a new method that allows them to do so.
“With the help of an instrument similar to a dentist’s drill, we can accurately measure the ratio of N14 and N15 isotopes in these ancient teeth by removing the chemicals and microbes that eventually convert nitrogen to nitrogen oxide in the enamel,” Kast said.