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Reasonable Doubt

Shark week may be long gone, but I would like to take this post to pay tribute to one very cool extinct species called the Megalodon (doesn’t that just sound awesome?).  In essence, the Megalodon is a prehistoric relative of the shark measuring around 60-100 feet long and living dangerously close to land in warm shallow seas.  Each of their teeth was about the size of a human’s face in width and were used to crush the skulls of prehistoric Great Whales, the Megalodon’s meal of choice.

This bad boy is believed to have looked a little something like this:

But what I find truly interesting about this prehistoric badass is that a small following within the scientific community believes the Megalodon to still exist.  Aided and inspired by eye witness accounts in Polynesian and Haitian regions, some cryptozoologists continue to search for megalodons in the deepest, furthest regions of the sea.  While most scientists dismiss the credibility of these claims, as I am inclined to do, what does everyone have to say on the “disproving a negative” theory?  While it is true that one can not technically prove that something does not exist– doing so would necessitate being everywhere all the time– where is the line drawn?  While the concept of the Megalodon still existing is very enticing, the most recent living Megalodon of which we have proof lived over 11,000 years ago.

Here’s what some scientists have to say on the matter:

Megalodon Lives!

Megalodon is Gone.

The Coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) was thought to be extinct for more than 60 million years until a live specimen was captured in 1938. We now know that there is a small but definitely surviving population of these ancient fish in very deep waters off eastern Africa and another was recently discovered off Indonesia. Who’s to say that Megalodon does not also survive? It is true that coelacanths were believed to have died out long ago, but just because one species thought to be extinct turned up alive and well doesn’t necessarily mean that Megalodon survives too.
Less than 5% of the deep-sea has been explored, and even less than that sampled biologically. Yet we know that sharks live at least as deep as 12,000 feet (3,660 metres) and Sperm Whales (Physeter macrocephalus) are believed to dive to 10,000 feet (3,050 metres) in search of squid. If there’s enough food down there for 60-foot (18-metre) whales, there is probably enough to support Megalodon Although very little abyssal life has been sampled, the deep-sea is a very difficult environment demanding numerous significant specializations. Amount of food in the deep-sea is not the issue. Megalodon seems to have been limited to warm, shallow seas near coastlines and there is no evidence it had any specializations that would have enabled it to survive the intense cold of the deep-sea.
Based on the average rate of deposition of manganese dioxide around nuclei composed of fossil shark teeth, some have calculated that Megalodon may have lived as recently as 11,000 years ago, rather than died out 1.6 million years ago, as suggested by radiometric dating. In geological terms, that’s yesterday. True, but new evidence suggests that the rate of manganese dioxide deposition is highly variable, dependent upon (among other factors) regional and seasonal fluctuations in primary productivity by phytoplankton. Besides, even 11,000 years is almost certainly far longer than the generation time of Megalodon. Extinct is extinct, no matter how recent in geological terms.
New and unprecedented marine creatures are still being discovered, some of them quite large – like the 15-foot (4.5-metre) Megamouth Shark (Megachasma pelagios) discovered in November 1976. The discovery of new species – even large and spectacular ones likeMegachasma – does not, of itself, imply that a particular species, Megalodon, will necessarily be re-discovered .
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