Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Megalodon...The Great, Great White Shark. Does It Still Swim The Oceans?

Imagine if you will, a beautiful day off the Florida Coast. You are on vacation and have decided to do some deep sea fishing. As you head out on the 35 ft. fishing vessel. The Captain tells you it is a great day for fishing and he expects to find some great angling action for you. You watch the land slowly disappear behind you as you bask in the sun, heading for the deeper waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Suddenly, you are violently tossed from your deck chair as the boat lurches sideways in the water, the engines rev wildly as they leave the water at the rear of the boat. You hear shouting from the Captain to the Boat's Crew. Grabbing the rail you stand, looking over the side. You see the large white form passing beneath the boat, the massive dorsal fin just below the waters surface. It's size dwarfs the boat with its 35 ft. frame. It's a shark! But this is no typical shark and none like you have ever seen before. Even larger than the Great White which can grow up to 25 ft. in length (That we know, as that is the largest great White ever caught), this 75 ft. behemoth is Carcharodon Megalodon or better known as the Megalodon.

If this were to occur, you could possibly consider yourself lucky, as a shark that size could easily tip a fishing boat of 35 ft. like it was a toy in the water. Lucky for you, they are not quite as common as other sharks we are familiar with, and most experts believe they populated the ocean more than 1.5 million years ago and may have only went extinct around 10,000 years ago...But did they?

According to those same experts, the Megalodon could reach sizes from 50 ft. to possibly 100 ft. long and weigh in at 49 tons (At 50 ft). Considering the largest sharks we know of today being no more than 25 ft. in length weighing roughing 2.5 tons, that is a whole lot of fish!

So if the experts, those being Zoologist and Paleontologist, saying the Megalodon is extinct, why would we be discussing it here? There are a few reasons for this.

First, there is the understanding that we as humans know more about our moon and solar system than we do about our own oceans. Less than 5 percent of the ocean has been explored. That means that there could be a number of water based creatures out there that we have never seen before, and honestly, there is a very good chance that that is the case.

The coelacanth (Pronounced "see-la-canth"), was thought to be extinct for 65 million years before one was accidentally discovered in 1938 by a South African museum  curator who found it at a local fisherman's port while looking for different specimens of fish and ocean life. 65 million years is much longer than only 10,000 years, which is when megalodon went extinct. In the fossil record, this would be less than a fraction of a second ago on the clock of time. This finding, coupled with the fact that 6,969 other new species were discovered in 2006, should raise some eyebrows on there being a possibility, even if remote, that megalodon could still exist today. (http://news.mongabay.com/2008/0527-species.html)

Also is the find of megalodon teeth. One of these teeth was, geologically speaking, "fresh" and date to about the time of the Lascaux Cave paintings, around 24,000 years ago. The other was much more recent, dating to 11,000 years ago, around the time mankind was migrating from Asia to North America.

Then are also the eyewitness accounts of the predator. One of the greatest occurred in 1918, taken from David G. Stead's "Sharks and Rays of Australian Seas", published in 1963. This is the account in the words of Stead:

"In the year 1918, I recorded the sensation that had been caused among the "outside" crayfish men at Port Stephens, when, for several days, they refused to go to their regular fishing grounds in the vicinity of Broughton Island. 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, lifting pot after pot containing many crayfishes, and taking, as the men said, "pots, mooring lines, and all.

Those crayfish pots were three feet and six inches in diameter. They basically contained up to three dozens large crayfish, each weighing several pounds. All the people who saw it said that the shark was unimaginably monstrous. However, the lengths that they gave were absurd. Most likely, they were overwhelmed with what they saw. But these were men who were used to the sea, all sorts of weather, and all kinds of sharks. One of those men said that that shark was at least 300 feet (92 meters) long. Others said that it was as long as their pier: almost 115 feet (35 meters)."

There is also the history and lore of the Polynesian people about the "Lord of the Deep". This white shark is said to be over 100 ft long. It has also been reported that along the coast of some more remote fishing villages in the pacific, there are places the local fishermen will not fish because of their belief and accounts of the creature being in that area. This has yet to be documented by experts as those who have tried to investigate have not persuaded any local fisherman in those villages to take them to the sighting areas.

Also, as recently as 2007, swimmers in Australia reported sightings of a large "monster" shark and a local beach there was closed for two days due to the fear of the creature. Zane Grey, famed 20th Century author of western novels and deep sea angler even had his own reports of what could have been the Megalodon.

Below I have included some links to other sites that deal with the Megalodon story. I only say that as vast as our planets oceans are, and for as little as we really know about them, for us to think the megalodon could not exist is very presumptuous on our part. But as you take your next beach vacation and look out over the rolling waves as they crash onto the shore, just remember...when you walk into the water, you are not alone and you are definitely not on top of the food chain.






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