This week at the Museum, we are putting the finishing touches on a reconstruction of the jaws of the Megalodon, the largest shark the world has ever known.
Our reconstruction, which is approximately 10 feet tall and 11 feet wide, would have fit comfortably in a 60 foot shark that weighed in the range of 100 tons.
To put this in perspective, the Megalodon would have been about the same length as 1 ½ yellow school busses and would have weighed about the same as a small blue whale.
The history of paleontology is a topic I find interesting, as early interpretations of fossils often tell you less about the animal and more about the culture that has discovered it. Originally, the Megalodon teeth were identified as “glossopetrae” or tongue stones, and were believed to be the petrified tongues of snakes and dragons.
I have seen students wondering why this information is in the textbook or if it will it be included on the test. Broadly speaking, these footnotes in paleontological history let the reader appreciate how far we have come. As simplistic and even childish as they seem to readers today, the historical interpretations weren’t based in ignorance. They were based in the organized systems of thoughts and beliefs of the time.
The first people to discover the fossilized teeth, knowing little else than the shape and color of the tooth, saw the teeth as having menacing origins. Knowing today that the fossil is actually a tooth from a giant shark does not change that reaction.
|If you had stumbled across this among a bunch of rocks…what would you have thought it was?
See more Megalodon photos.
In the 20 years I have taught at the museum, shark teeth – Megalodon teeth in particular – have always been popular with the public. Holding and examining Megalodon teeth creates a sense of awe the minds of our patrons.
Experience this sense of wonder today and tomorrow – and be sure to put a note on your calendar for the summer of 2012 for the opening of the new Hall of Paleontology where this jaw will be displayed in pursuit of some unexpected prey.