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You Are On: Sharks Page 12
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(TABLE OF CONTENTS ON PAGE 1)
Contents: History of the Megalodon; Children write about the sea
Following is an article written by Glenn Reed that was published in 1999, outlining the history of sharks, and the megalodon shark and shark's teeth in particular
Below is a replica of a megalodon jaw and megalodon shark at the State Museum, Columbia SC. Makes you feel small, doesn't it, and glad they're not finding great whites this size anymore!
Side note: a great video collage of info & photos was made on Youtube, including this photo of Glenn under the megalodon shark jaw:
When did the first sharks live? As long as 400 million years ago, according to studies by modern-day paleontologists. Their findings used fossilized shark's teeth found in some of the oldest stratum on the earth -- from the late/middle Devonian Period.
The study of sharks in the last 50 years has evolved faster than the sharks themselves. We all know the fear we experienced watching "Jaws" -- yet that fascination draws us further into the shark's world to learn more. As another example, Rodney Fox of Adelaide, south Australia became the most famous shark-bite victim to survive a Great White attack in 1963. His attack was recorded as the worst seen and recorded by modern man. It required 500 stitches to repair the damage (see Sharks page 5 where you can buy his book, #S569).
As a result, Rodney has spent the last 30 years in the forefront of shark studies with marine experts such as Jacques Cousteau to find out what makes them tick. Two hundred videos attest to his need to know and educate others.
To better understand the development of present-day sharks, we must examine the evidence. This can be difficult, because most of a shark decomposes, leaving only teeth and vertebrae behind. The most spectacular teeth examined are from the "Carcharodon Megalodon".
Much bigger than this shark mount at a beach store in Daytona Beach, Florida:
The genus Carcharodon dates back to the Paleocene era (60-65 million years). First known as "Auriculitis" with side cusps on the teeth, this "father of the Megalodon" was smaller, hence had smaller teeth (usually 1-2" long). However, it evolved larger teeth from the age of 25 million years old, through the Pliocene time period (4.5 million years). These teeth measure up to 7" (from tip of tooth to high point on upper gum). That's SEVEN INCHES! No wonder these monster teeth conjure up images of giant sea creatures. Giants they were! Size of sharks is measured on a 1-10 scale -- for every 1" of tooth equals 10 feet of shark. That means a 70 foot shark! Some studies exceed that scale and estimate Megalodon at up to 120 feet in length! Even conservatively speaking, he would be longer than a semi-truck and trailer that we see on the highway today. Picture THAT barreling head-on towards you with a mouthful of 500 seven-inch teeth! By far the largest predator fish in the sea.
Okay so it DIDN'T eat the jeep. This is a store in Myrtle Beach called "Shark". The mouth is the entrance to the store.
Since the Pliocene era, Megalodon eventually died out, no one knows exactly why. Though it was thought the great white descended from the Megalodon, indications are that the Megalodon was a dead end species and that the great white descended instead from the Extinct Mako. The only difference between the extinct mako and great white is that the great white has serrated teeth. Here are photos of all three shark teeth as evidence:
Thankfully, shark's teeth are so plentiful and have fossilized so well that we have a 400 million year old "storybook" to read chapter by chapter in the layers of the earth.
Due to the fact that we have not been studying sharks more than 60-70 years, we only know that some sharks live at least that long. Full life-expectancy of sharks is still not known. We do know, however, that a shark has the ability to replace a lost tooth within 24 hours, that sharks eat every 2-3 days -- and lose 6-10 teeth per feeding. Do the math - 70 years -- a single shark uses 30,000-60,000 teeth. Untold millions of sharks swam the prehistoric seas -- losing tens of millions of teeth man will continue to find and examine and learn from for many years to come.
During the past 12 years I have dug, sifted, dived for and beach-walked hundreds of miles looking for these jewels of mother nature. I have been very successful in locating them from the southern tip of Florida all the way to Maine. On rare occasions, I have found them in New Mexico, California, Utah, Wyoming and Texas. One of the best fossil digs, much to some collectors' surprise, was in North Carolina among the phosphate areas of central Beaufort County. These paleontologists from the Smithsonian came here expecting to dig sedimentary layers of a coastal plain. Instead, they found sharks teeth, whale vertebrae and other marine fossils. The geologists from oil companies ran core samples 200 feet deep and found even more and larger fossils. And the "gold rush" was on! This area had been under the ocean as part of the continental shelf. Who said history was boring?
In fact, shark's teeth have been found in Germany, England, Russia, Afghanistan, North Africa (Sahara Desert), Japan, China, Peru and throughout the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean.
And now, back to the future!
We have tens of thousands of shark's teeth - fossilized and fresh teeth. Fresh teeth are the ones from modern sharks. I have yet to ever find a fresh tooth on the sea floor, nor will you ever see me with a pliers going after one in a live shark! But I do acquire jaws from sports fishermen in the Florida and the Philippines areas which recycles teeth into a collectible or jewelry. What about a fresh Great White shark tooth? All countries now have him on the Protected Species List since December of 1998, upgraded in October 2005 to Endangered. This means no one can intentionally fish for Great Whites, so there is a high price on the few teeth available (you will notice that on our page selling the Great White teeth).
So if you desire to learn more or even start a modest shark tooth collection, look over the sample collection on these pages, or email us with your questions. We'd be happy to help you in any way we can. We're here to share with inquiring minds. Teachers are welcome to email us as well. Where else but at WHERE ON EARTH?
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