Storeroom Stories: Mega-Toothed Sharks


Shark’s teeth are a common fossil in coastal regions like the Lowcountry. The teeth of Carcharodon (Carcharocles) megalodon, commonly known as megalodon, are particularly prized. The exact relationship between this giant shark and modern sharks is still a matter of debate. If megalodon is closely related to modern great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias), then it should be classified within Carcharodon. However, new research on this ancient behemoth seems to give evidence that it may be different enough to place it in a different genus, Carcharocles. Whichever the case, this shark is thought to have been able to reach lengths upwards of 18 meters (59 ft) and stalked whales from 15.9 – 2.5 million years ago.


Megalodons are the most well-known of the mega-toothed sharks, however they were not the only ones to exist. Between 35 – 22 million years ago another giant shark was common in the Lowcountry. Smaller than the megalodon, reaching a length of roughly 9 meters (~30 ft), Carcharocles angustidens would still be considerably larger than an average adult great white shark (~6.4 meters; 21 ft). C. angustidens teeth, like megalodon teeth, are commonly found in the Lowcountry. C. angustidens are differentiated from megalodon by their additional cusps which are heavily serrated like a steak knife. Both of these mega-toothed sharks went extinct when sources of food became scarce. Although larger bodies can aid in taking down large prey, if the prey becomes scarce it is harder for the animal to find alternatives. Both C. megalodon and C. angustidens are examples of bigger not always being better.