What’s one thing we have in common with a baby (Megalodon) shark? Growing up in a nursery!
Otodus megalodon, one of the largest marine apex predators ever to exist, has certainly been making the news lately. Once scientifically known as Carcharocles megalodon, this extinct shark was considered to have been a cosmopolitan species that was a force to be reckoned with. But Megalodon doesn’t just pop out measuring over 50 feet (15 m) long! So where does “Mommy Shark” put her baby shark to grow? A shallow, warm-water nursery.
Nurseries are of particular research interest to shark scientists due to their assumed importance in the shark’s life history, with numerous studies defining a nursery and stressing their importance in conservation. Inshore habitats (like mudflats, bays, estuaries, marsh wetlands, mangroves, lagoons, bayous and shallow coral reefs) are frequently used as nurseries, providing a haven for juvenile sharks, with a lower predation risk and shallow, warmer waters that tend to be more productive than deeper regions. Here, juveniles have fast growth rates, and reduced predation risk, while they expand their range within the nursery and better their foraging capabilities. Some Megalodon mommas gave their pups a fighting chance in a newly described middle Miocene locality from Northeastern Spain, as well as in eight previously known formations (Temblor, Calvert, Pisco, Gatún, Chucunaque, Bahía Inglesa, Yorktown and Bone Valley). “Our results reveal, for the first time, that nursery areas were commonly used by the O. megalodon over large temporal and spatial scales,” said the authors of the new study.
We can thank teeth for our knowledge on these sharks. Cartilage doesn’t preserve as well as bones, so the most older shark fossil records are based on isolated scales and teeth. In fact, shark teeth are among the most commonly found fossils around the world, since they are continually shed by sharks. After a trip to a museum to look at Megalodon teeth, the authors noted that the teeth were quite small for such a famously large animal. The researchers inferred the body lengths of the individuals from dental parameters and found they belong to young pups. A nursery! This new Spanish nursery would have been a “shallow bay area of warm waters, connected to the sea and with extensive coral reefs and plenty of invertebrates, fish species, marine mammals and