Ever since it has been established that Megalodon sharks no longer exist and they were wiped out around 3.6 million years ago, it has created a heated discussion about how the giant species, the Megalodon, went extinct. In warm waters, the Megalodon was a prolific and active macro predator, with little or no competition as such, and is thought to have been the largest shark ever caught.
In order to understand how apex predators, affect ecosystems, biologists study them extensively. In the context of their extinction, a massive predator such as the Megalodon would have dramatic effects on the environments in which it lived, raising questions about why it happened in the first place.
What caused the extinction of Megalodon?
Despite the fact that the Megalodon no longer exists, its stature as the largest predator in history captured people’s imagination. Throughout history, sharks have survived all five major mass extinction events; however, the extinction of the Megalodon raises an eyebrow. This is said to be caused by numerous factors, and we will inspect this in detail.
1: Changing ocean currents
A fossil found from all oceans except Antarctica indicates that Megalodon was adapted to warm tropical and subtropical areas around the world. The sudden change in environmental conditions thus affected the species heavily.
It is safe to speculate that Megalodon became extinct between the mid-late Pliocene and 3.6 million years ago, during a period of global cooling during which the earth moved in a retrograde motion.
During the Miocene, since the Atlantic and Pacific oceans were linked at the equator, there was a greater flow of warm equatorial water throughout the globe. This was good news for warm-water predators such as Megalodon during this period because there was enough warm water and a proper channel connecting the two largest oceans.
During the Pliocene, however, North and South America bumped, hindering the former Central American Seaway. As a result, global ocean current dynamics changed dramatically, causing rapid and dramatic drops in temperature.
Megalodon was not in a position to give birth to its young at coastal nurseries due to sea levels dropping globally due to frozen seawater settling at the poles. Cold temperature was not something Megalodon was adapted to, and as a result, the population started to decline.
2: Loss of primary food source
Megalodon was an ambush predator with no competition as such. They had the large-size sharp teeth through which Megalodon can take on any animal. Megalodon preferred to eat large mammals such as cetaceans; however, the change of currents also affected the prey population.
Megalodon depended on mid-sized, warm water cetaceans for food, but those species mostly disappeared, and their closest relatives moved to waters that were not within the Megalodon range.
A Megalodon could not survive in the remaining warm coastal waters because they were devoid of large prey animals necessary to sustain its size. Thus, in the absence of food, Megalodon soon lost its reign and was eventually exterminated.
3: Competition with other predators
The above two were the two foremost reasons for the extinction of Megalodon. However, another significant factor was the competition with other predators, mainly killer whales. When killer whales attack in groups, they can easily take on the sharks.
Having been apex predators in the marine world, sharks hold significant importance to the ecosystem they inhabit. Megalodon no longer exists and for reasons that include the climate effects, loss of food, and competition with other predators of the ocean. The great white shark now fills their place as an apex predator shark species. However, none of the species so far can claim the title of being the largest shark ever to exist; that honor belongs to a Megalodon.