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Body dimensions of the extinct giant shark Otodus megalodon: a 2D reconstruction


Cooper, Jack A; Pimiento, Catalina; Ferrón, Humberto G; Benton, Michael J (2020). Body dimensions of the extinct giant shark Otodus megalodon: a 2D reconstruction. Scientific Reports, 10(1):14596.

Abstract

Inferring the size of extinct animals is fraught with danger, especially when they were much larger than their modern relatives. Such extrapolations are particularly risky when allometry is present. The extinct giant shark †Otodus megalodon is known almost exclusively from fossilised teeth. Estimates of †O. megalodon body size have been made from its teeth, using the great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) as the only modern analogue. This can be problematic as the two species likely belong to different families, and the position of the †Otodus lineage within Lamniformes is unclear. Here, we infer †O. megalodon body dimensions based on anatomical measurements of five ecologically and physiologically similar extant lamniforms: Carcharodon carcharias, Isurus oxyrinchus, Isurus paucus, Lamna ditropis and Lamna nasus. We first assessed for allometry in all analogues using linear regressions and geometric morphometric analyses. Finding no evidence of allometry, we made morphological extrapolations to infer body dimensions of †O. megalodon at different sizes. Our results suggest that a 16 m †O. megalodon likely had a head ~ 4.65 m long, a dorsal fin ~ 1.62 m tall and a tail ~ 3.85 m high. Morphometric analyses further suggest that its dorsal and caudal fins were adapted
for swift predatory locomotion and long-swimming periods.

Abstract

Inferring the size of extinct animals is fraught with danger, especially when they were much larger than their modern relatives. Such extrapolations are particularly risky when allometry is present. The extinct giant shark †Otodus megalodon is known almost exclusively from fossilised teeth. Estimates of †O. megalodon body size have been made from its teeth, using the great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) as the only modern analogue. This can be problematic as the two species likely belong to different families, and the position of the †Otodus lineage within Lamniformes is unclear. Here, we infer †O. megalodon body dimensions based on anatomical measurements of five ecologically and physiologically similar extant lamniforms: Carcharodon carcharias, Isurus oxyrinchus, Isurus paucus, Lamna ditropis and Lamna nasus. We first assessed for allometry in all analogues using linear regressions and geometric morphometric analyses. Finding no evidence of allometry, we made morphological extrapolations to infer body dimensions of †O. megalodon at different sizes. Our results suggest that a 16 m †O. megalodon likely had a head ~ 4.65 m long, a dorsal fin ~ 1.62 m tall and a tail ~ 3.85 m high. Morphometric analyses further suggest that its dorsal and caudal fins were adapted
for swift predatory locomotion and long-swimming periods.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Paleontological Institute and Museum
Dewey Decimal Classification:560 Fossils & prehistoric life
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Multidisciplinary
Uncontrolled Keywords:Multidisciplinary
Language:English
Date:1 December 2020
Deposited On:08 Oct 2020 14:50
Last Modified:01 Nov 2020 17:11
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
ISSN:2045-2322
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-71387-y
PubMed ID:32883981
Project Information:
  • : FunderH2020
  • : Grant ID663830
  • : Project TitleSIRCIW - Strengthening International Research Capacity in Wales
  • : FunderH2020
  • : Grant ID839636
  • : Project TitleEarlyVertEvo - Unravelling the scenario of early vertebrate evolution through computational analysis of the fossil record

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