"Perhaps of all the monsters, the giant shark is the most enduring. It incorporates virtually every element that we require of our mythological sea beasts: great size, mysterious habits, verified anthropophagous inclinations, and a history that goes back to the beginnings of recorded time. More than Leviathan, more than the sea serpent, more than the Kraken, Megalodon may be the ultimate monster."
- Richard Ellis, Monsters of the Sea
I have no idea what the fuck "verified anthropophagous inclinations" means, but I do know that sharks freak me the hell out. On the one hand, I'm so completely fascinated by them that any time I see anything shark-related on TV I'm sucked in by some inexplicable primal urge to watch intently while these things annihilate seals with their horrible horrible teeth, but on the flip side I'm more terrified of those mammal-obliterating aquatic murder machines than any other creature, person, or construct in real life or fiction. I'm not even kidding – I'd rather battle Cthulhu in hand-to-hand combat armed with a foam pool noodle than tread water in the ocean within a hundred yards of a Great White. Sure, a teeming face full of grisly tentacle-y death would be simultaneously painful and humiliating, but it's still better than chomped into tiny pieces by several rows of serrated teeth while staring into the endless black recesses of some emotionless beast's expressionless dead eyes.
For starters, sharks are nature's ultimate killing machines. Obscenely-gigantic death factories with an insatiable hunger, no capacity for pity, and the disturbing ability to attack their unsuspecting prey from any direction, at any time, whenever they want, with enough power and ferocity to dismember you instantly and gruesomely. Their cold, dead eyes are windows to their black, all-devouring souls, and these permanently-pissed demonic spawn of Satan not only disembowel mammals, fish, and other unsuspecting idiots in roughly the time it takes most divers to barf into their rebreathers – they also hate everything that you love, like hot bikini babes, harpoon cannons, and not being horrifically mutilated. The only thing they even remotely derive joy from is consuming the blood of the innocent – the second you accidentally cut your hand on the poop deck and spill a single drop of crimson into the water these things freak the fuck out, come flying up from the murky blackness of the ocean, and start gnawing on your ship and tearing you and all of your friends into chum (which they then suck down like a bowl of chicken tortilla soup). Fuck, sharks are so evil they even attack other wounded sharks – as soon as their good buddy gets a cut and they smell his weakness they rip him apart and wear his skin around like a hat.
Hello, I have come to kill you.
Nowadays we usually like to think of the Great White Shark as being the most badass thing to ever live. And sure, it probably is the most fearsome predator on Earth at this particular point in history, but the Great White is actually just a smaller, probably-pussier version of the most badass shark-related monstrosity this planet has ever seen – the Carcharodon Megalodon. Mega Shark. The world's ultimate predator. An aberration against sanity. A prehistoric atrocity of nature so utterly gigantic and freak-out scary that looking at some of the pictures on this page might scar most mortals to point where they're going to spend the rest of their lives having fucking seizures and panic attacks any time they're near a body of water larger than a pint glass.
But, before we get into that, here's some shit for you to chew on – a size comparison chart between you (that tiny blue guy), a Great White Shark (the green one), and Megalodon (either the red or the gray, depending on whether the creature's actual size was on the low end or the high end of scientific estimates).
Attention all hands, commence pants-crapping immediately.
Known by scholarly scientist types as "MEGA TOOTH" (usually pronounced by most professors and paleontologist in roughly the same way the monster truck announcers on TV say "GRAVE DIGGER"), was a no-bullshit, real-life thing that lived somewhere between 2 and 15 million years ago, give or take an epoch. Patrolling the waters back in the day when TITANOBOA was doing his thing and everything in the world was way bigger (like even bigger than things are in Texas today), MEGA TOOTH was the largest marine predator in Earth's history – and that includes those stupid dinosaurs with the flippers.
Based on its teeth and vertebrae (the only two parts of the creature we've ever been able to find), we believe that the Megalodon was somewhere between 50 and100 feet from snout to tail, making it roughly two-thirds the length of an Olympic-sized swimming pool. It was not only two to three times bigger than the world's biggest Great White Shark, but the fact that it could open its mouth 9 feet wide means that it could actually swallow a Great White whole if he was in the mood to show one of those things how much they suck compared to him. This thing was even bigger than the impossibly-huge Bruce the Shark from Jaws, and what's worse is that at one point this was a real fucking thing that actually lived in the ocean.
I feel like I should stress that this is not a Photoshopped image.
Amateur, professional, and semi-pro paleoichthyologists find Megalon teeth every once in a while (like all sharks, Megalodon shed his teeth once they got dull and replaced them with a gleaming-new set of razor-sharp chompers that would have made the Jaws from the James Bond movies jealous) and it usually freaks them out because these things are 7 inches long, serrated, and really really fucking frightening – especially when you consider that the reconstructed Megalodon mouth in that picture with the cute girl is nine feet high by eleven feet across, and that there were two or three rows of these things jutting out of it from every direction.
The tooth on the far right is from a Great White.
If you're wondering what the fuck you eat with a nine foot tall mouth stuffed with 7-inch spikes, the correct answer is whatever the fuck you want. We're pretty sure that Megalodons mostly ate whales, drilling their jagged pointy fangs into them with the most powerful bite strength of any creature that ever lived : In 2008 a team of researchers decided somehow that this guy could chomp down with a bite strength that measured somewhere between 10 and 18 tons of force. For comparison, Great Whites bite with 1.8 tons of force. Lions only bite with 600 pounds (pussies).
Megalodons were ripping shit up way after the dinosaurs got meteor-ed out of existence, so he probably didn't actually eat T-Rexes or Plesiosaurs or shit, no matter how awesome the artwork depicting that might be. Shark researchers have found things like tin cans, giant squid parts, and old shoes in the stomachs of Great Whites, though, so if these MEGATOOTH fuckers were at all similar to their descendants, they probably ate any goddamned thing they could get their teeth on – sheep, speedboats, small continents, and god knows what else. They're like the goats of the ocean, only they're gigantic, not hilarious looking, and constructed from pure evil made manifest into flesh.
The main point of reference we like to use for history's all-time apex predator is the Great White, but in reality Megalodon was like the Great White's badass awesome uncle who rides into town every once in a while on a Harley, gets hammered and smashes beer cans on his head at the family reunion, and then burns rubber out of there with your brother's topless wife riding on the back seat. If he hunted with the same tactics of the Great White (which is probably not outside the realm of possibilities), he would have attacked his prey by racing up from below, swimming up at it at unbelievable speeds, and disabling it on the first pass with a chomp to the flippers, legs, or propulsion systems. Once the target was disabled, the Megalodon then took his time devouring it slowly just to be a dick. You've probably seen the Air Jaws shit before, but the idea of a 100-foot shark propelling 50 tons of mass – roughly the same weight of 10 adults elephants or one of those gigantic construction cranes – and potentially sending it rifling through the water with enough force to get airborne is insane and scary and also kind of awesome in a weird sadistic way.
And now, since I don't have enough text to accommodate the number of awesome pictures I found to illustrate this piece, I'm just going to post some shit here without any real explanation:
One time I was telling a friend of mine about the Megalodon and his head exploded.
In fiction, Megalodon does pretty much all of the awesome shit you would expect a giant Great White to do, plus a bunch of other things you didn't really expect a battleship-sized shark to attempt. In Robin Brown's book Megalodon he hauls ass around the North Atlantic eating nuclear subs like sausages, but it's in the Sci-Fi Channel Original movies that he truly shines. Between Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus and Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus, this thing crushes a U.S. Navy warship with his teeth, bites the Golden Gate Bridge in half, tail-slaps an F-18 out of mid-air, battles the Kraken, and chases around Urkel, Debbie Gibson, the doctor from Voyager and that dude from Torchwood.
Also, this happens:
Yes, you did just see that correctly. It's a Megalodon leaping up out of the water and eating a 747 out of the sky.
Like I said, the jumping out of the water thing might not have been a total impossibility for this thing, no matter how terrifying the concept might be. This clip from Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, however, probably differs slightly from the true physiological nature of C. Megalodon, but you can overlook that because of all the gratuitous cleavage and also because the friggin' mega shark eats an entire a life raft full of rich people in tuxedos like he's wolfing down an enchilada:
Thankfully the Megalodon is extinct today, mostly because there's not much food left for them and because swallowing dudes on jetskis isn't as nutritious as you'd think. There was also something I read about whales migrating to colder water and growing blubber to escape this thing (makes sense), and then when the cold-blooded shark couldn't follow them he died out (also makes sense). Some folks think the Megalodon might still be around today, but even hardcore cryptozoologists are pretty sure this is probably crap. Like, for instance back in 1918 some New Zealand lobstermen claimed they saw a 100-foot Great White on the high seas, but when the Guinness World Record office was like, "Pics or it didn't happen", they weren't able to back it up.