The size of the megatooth shark revisited

Published on
30. September 2019

The size of the megatooth shark, Otodus megalodon (Lamniformes: Otodontidae), revisited

Kenshu Shimada


Otodus megalodon (Lamniformes: Otodontidae) is a gigantic late Neogene shark that lived nearly worldwide in tropical-temperate regions. Its gigantic teeth have captivated imaginations of the scientific community and general public alike, where the most commonly cited maximum size range of O. megalodon in scientific literature is 18–20 m in total length (TL). In this study, I reexamined the ontogenetic development of teeth and the quantitative relationships between TL and the crown height of anterior teeth in the extant white shark, Carcharodon carcharias, with an ultimate goal to clarify the current state of the scientific understanding of the body size of O. megalodon. My study suggests that the use of upper anterior teeth is much preferred over lower anterior teeth when estimating TL. This study combined with previous studies suggests that the presently verifiable maximum TL estimates of O. megalodon (i.e. scientifically justifiable account based on museum specimens) are 14.2‒15.3 m TL, where individuals of O. megalodon exceeding 15 m TL must have been exceptionally rare. Nevertheless, O. megalodon can still be regarded as one of the largest carnivores, if not superpredators, that have ever lived on Earth.

Historical Biology, DOI 10.1080/08912963.2019.1666840


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