You may have heard of megalodon, the largest shark that ever existed on Earth. But have you heard of the megalodon ancestor who lived in Alabama?
The answer is no, because scientists just discovered it. After 40 years, researchers finally collected enough fossilized shark teeth in Alabama to officially identify a previously unknown ancient shark — a megalodon ancestor they've named the Bryant shark.
Based on this new shark, scientists now say that megalodon's relatives just kept getting bigger ... and bigger.
The Bryant shark teeth pale in comparison to megalodon's. (Credit: McWane Science Center)
"Over time, the sharks in the megalodon line acquire [tooth] serrations, lose their cusplets (the little 'fangs' on the sides of the main cusp) and grow to enormous sizes," study lead researcher Jun Ebersole told LiveScience.
Do we even need to say it?
There isn't a whole preserved fossil of megalodon, either. Scientists use a special calculation based on the size of great white sharks to figure out the relationship between tooth size and body size.
Based on megalodon's teeth, scientists estimated they could grow to a maximum length of 59 feet.
They sound quite epic, we but we're still glad they're not around anymore!
In comparison — and even compared to great white sharks — their southern cousins were much smaller. The fossilized teeth found in Alabama are all around 1 inch long.
To put that in perspective: Megalodon's chompers were 7 inches long. That means mega's cousin was probably around 15 feet long. Which is still a lot of shark, we have to say.
This shark's teeth, while smaller, still look similar to megalodon's, which is why scientists believe they're relatives. The finding also suggests the whole population of mega-sharks is more diverse than previously understood.