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Are there megalodons in the Mariana Trench?

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It's a nightmarish scenario: the megalodon, a prehistoric shark nearly the size of a blue whale, lives in the deepest part of the ocean, the Mariana Trench. Somehow, they surfaced and became the fear of every creature on the high seas. . . including humans. Science fiction and movies have explored these scenarios, but how likely are they really?

Are there still Megalodon sharks in the Mariana Trench 1?
The megalodon (second from top) is almost as long as the blue whale (top).

© AZ-Animals.com

What is a megalodon?

The megalodon's scientific name is Otodus megalodon , which simply means "big tooth." It is the largest shark to ever swim in the ocean. Scientists believe the largest of these may have been as long as 82 feet, but the average length may be closer to 58 feet. That's still considerably bigger than the largest great white shark, which measures only about 20 feet, and close to the size of an adult blue whale at 69 feet!

There isn't much definitive information about megalodons, as their bodies are primarily cartilage, which is not found in the fossil record. Instead, we mostly find jaws and teeth – some measuring 6 inches or larger! Some baby and juvenile megalodon teeth have been found in shallow waters off the coast of Panama, which may have served as a sort of nursery where young megalodons could feast on smaller fish without fear of being caught by larger ones. As adults, megalodons hunt larger prey such as whales, dolphins, porpoises, sea turtles, and just about anything else they want to eat. Fortunately for us, the last megalodon went extinct between 2.5 and 3.5 million years ago. . . or did it?

megalodon teeth
Megalodon has hundreds of teeth and can grow up to 6 inches long as an adult.

©Nico Ott/Shutterstock.com

What's Hiding in the Mariana Trench?

The Mariana Trench, named after the Mariana Islands off Japan's southern Pacific Ocean, is the deepest trench in any ocean in the world. The trench was discovered in 1875 by a British ship called the HMS Challenger and has been a fascinating mystery to scientists ever since. It is more than 1,500 miles long and about 40 miles wide. The most shocking thing is that at its deepest point, it is nearly seven miles deep! This means that if you could take Mount Everest and drop it into the Mariana Trench, you'd still have to swim down about a mile to reach the summit! Only two people have ever reached the deepest point of the trench, using specialized equipment to withstand the immense pressure and cold. That slow and careful voyage took five hours.

The bottom of the ditch is so deep that absolutely no sunlight can penetrate the pitch blackness. Temperatures hover a few degrees above freezing. Huge seawater poured in from all directions, and the pressure was more than 1,000 times the atmospheric pressure at sea level. Surprisingly, the researchers found not only microbes, but also some fish and other marine life that could survive at these depths. Unfortunately, they also found human contaminants such as microplastics, candy wrappers, traces of pesticides banned in the 1970s, and higher-than-normal levels of radioactivity from nuclear tests in the Pacific.

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mariana trench
The Mariana Trench holds many secrets, but does that include the Megalodon?

© iStock.com/ratpack223

Can megalodon survive in the Mariana Trench?

So, is it possible that the megalodon somehow survived from prehistoric times and still lurks in the Mariana Trench today? The shortest answer is no. that's why:

  • Megalodon sharks are warm water creatures. In fact, paleontologists believe that periods of oceanic cooling in areas where megalodon pups matured may have been the primary cause of their demise. The deep sea is too cold for them to survive.
  • Megalodons are very large animals and they eat other very large animals. Nothing is big enough to sustain their living numbers in the Mariana Trench.
  • If the megalodon left the trench to go whaling etc and then return to hide there for some reason we would see it in the bite marks of whales and other large animals and in the thousands of freshly lost megalodon teeth in the ocean Its evidence ground.
  • For a species to survive and reproduce, it must have at least several hundred breeding populations to provide the necessary genetic diversity for the species to survive. Such a large population of megalodon cannot go unnoticed.
  • Another reason scientists speculate that the megalodon may have become extinct is because great white sharks that hunted in the same biome were genetically better adapted to the environment. Great white shark populations are dwindling and are thought to number only around 3,500 today. It would be surprising if the less competitive megalodon could somehow thrive in a modern world that was far less favorable to sharks than the prehistoric world.
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megalodon hunting
Megalodon sharks have big appetites. If they were alive anywhere in the ocean today, we'd be seeing large battle-scarred marine mammals and thousands of just-lost megalodon teeth on the ocean floor.

© Catmando/Shutterstock.com

What would we do if we did find a live megalodon?

It's a fascinating "what-if" scenario, indeed the realm of science fiction, but not very interesting to speculate on: what would we do if we actually found the megalodon in the Mariana Trench? There are various options:

  • Leave it alone and never go there again!
  • Study it without disturbing it so it doesn't go on a rampage around the world.
  • Find a way to seal off areas of the ocean from which it cannot escape. (Some kind of huge saltwater lagoon?)
  • Kill it to ensure that the giant prehistoric carnivore never threatens the planet again.
  • Of course, no matter which option we choose, we have to monetize it, right? Put a picture of it on lunch boxes, etc. in the gift shop. You know the routine.

Beyond this tongue-in-cheek thought experiment, the question raises interesting questions about how humans manage known extant wildlife that may pose challenges to populations and ecosystems in other parts of the world. For example, the American wild boar or the invasive python. Disease-carrying mosquitoes in Africa. There are too many rabbits in Australia. How much do we let nature take its course, and how much do we intervene, especially if our previous interventions helped create the problem? Perhaps, finally, when we think about the oceans, we should worry less about the megalodon, which is definitely not in the Mariana Trench, and more about the microplastics, which are definitely there.

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More from AZ Animals


featured image

Megalodon (Carcharocles megalodon)
The megalodon is an extinct shark that can grow to over 50 feet in length.

© Warpaint/Shutterstock.com


about the author


I'm a freelance writer, globetrotter and lifelong animal lover. Currently, I am the "emotional supporter" of 4 dogs, 1 cat and 2 guinea pigs. My favorite wild animal is the quokka, the most selfie-friendly animal in the world!

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

How big is the megalodon?

The megalodon is the largest shark that has ever swam the ocean. Scientists believe the largest of these may have been as long as 82 feet, but the average length may be closer to 58 feet. That's still considerably bigger than the largest great white shark, which measures only about 20 feet, and close to the size of an adult blue whale at 69 feet!

Why don't we have more megalodon fossils?

There isn't much definitive information about megalodons, as their bodies are primarily cartilage, which is not found in the fossil record. Cartilage is a softer material than bone and does not fossilize easily. Most of the megalodon remains we have are jaws and teeth.

What man-made objects have been discovered in the deepest part of the Mariana Trench?

At the bottom of the Mariana Trench, researchers have found human pollutants such as microplastics, candy wrappers, traces of pesticides banned in the 1970s, and higher-than-normal levels of radioactivity from nuclear tests in the Pacific Ocean.

Could Megalodon survive in the Mariana Trench today?

So, is it possible that the megalodon somehow survived from prehistoric times and still lurks in the Mariana Trench today? The shortest answer is no. that's why:

  • Megalodon sharks are warm water creatures. The Mariana Trench stays close to freezing year-round.
  • Megalodon sharks are very large and require large numbers of large prey. No such large prey species have been found in the Mariana Trench.
  • If megalodons hunted in the open ocean, researchers would have seen the battle scars they left on the attacked whales and would have found thousands of fresh megalodon teeth on the ocean floor.
  • A sustainable breeding population with sufficient genetic diversity must be at least several hundred and impossible to hide.
  • Great white sharks occupy the environmental niche of the megalodon, but their numbers are declining today because the niche cannot support their numbers.

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