Megalodons gave birth to large newborns that likely grew by eating unhatched eggs in womb

A new study shows that the gigantic Megalodon or megatooth shark, which lived nearly worldwide roughly 15-3.6 million years ago and reached at least 50 feet (15 meters) in length, gave birth to babies larger than most adult humans.

Otodus megalodon has a rich fossil record, but its biology remains poorly understood like most other extinct sharks because the cartilaginous fish is primarily known only from its teeth.

Researchers used a CT scanning technique to examine incremental 'growth bands' putatively recorded annually (analogous to tree rings) in Megalodon vertebral specimen housed in the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels.

CT images reveal the vertebrae to have 46 growth bands, meaning that the 9-meter Megalodon fossil died at age 46.

These data also suggest that, like all present-day lamniform sharks, embryonic Megalodon grew inside its mother by feeding on unhatched eggs in the womb—a practice known as oophagy, a form of intrauterine cannibalism.

More information: "Ontogenetic growth pattern of the extinct megatooth shark Otodus megalodon—implications for its reproductive biology, development, and life expectancy," DOI: 10.1080/08912963.2020.1861608

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