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The Warm-Blooded Giant that Ruled Ancient Seas

Did you know there was once a shark three times larger than a great white Shark? This shark was an Otodus megalodon, a massive ancestor of sharks that grew to be 66 feet long. Its blood was warmer in comparison to that of great white sharks. Its body temperature was about 13 degrees Celsius, which was more generous than seawater. Their warm-bloodedness may have contributed to their success and eventual fall as creatures in the past.

Megalodons were one of the world's most giant carnivores. They ate meat to gain energy and often obtained food from consuming large marine mammals. Their warm-bloodedness may have helped them become swift and aggressive apex predators. Specifically, the O. megalodon's body temperature would have allowed it to swim further and faster, which increases the chances of it finding its prey. However, this trait likely also led to the shark's enormous appetite and diet, potentially creating a risk for the species as environments change. Large creatures with warm blood require lots of food to fuel their metabolism. In an environment with scarce resources and food, this could become a problem, especially for apex predators.

The O. megalodon evolved around 23 million years ago; they went extinct between 3.5 million and 2.6 million years ago. This was around the same time when great white sharks emerged, around 3.5 million years ago. Competition between these two species likely drove megalodons towards extinction, especially when food became scarce. Additionally, scientists suspect that climate change during the Pliocene Epoch, lasting from 5.3 million to 2.6 million years ago, also led to drastic megalodon decline as marine mammals faded. Great white sharks, being smaller in size, likely needed less food to survive, thus allowing them to live past megalodons.

Scientists continue to study sharks today and their teeth to understand ancient conditions and evolution. Looking at fossilized teeth, scientists can uncover new ideas about the temperature regulation of sharks and how this impacts their survival in different environments. Continued research is being done to explore species such as the megalodon and understand what made these creatures so successful or potentially caused their extinction.

[Source: Science News Explore]

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