One of the most terrifying predators to ever hunt the oceans of primeval Earth was the megalodon. The megalodon was a gigantic shark (the largest shark ever discovered, in fact), dwarfing the largest of great whites which live today. Their teeth were of suitably stupendous size, with some fossilized teeth being over half a foot in length. There’s one place where you are more likely to find such a trophy than anywhere else too, and it isn’t some exotic island, it’s North Carolina!
The common name, megalodon, comes from the scientific name given to these extinct predators of the deep: Carcharocles megalodon. Unsurprisingly, this Latin-based scientific name roughly translates as “giant tooth,” a fitting description. Adult megalodons were the largest fish ever known, able to reach an estimated average size of about 33 feet in length, with the largest being nearly twice that size. They also weighed anywhere between 30 and 60 metric tons. In comparison, great white sharks average around 14 feet in length and usually weigh less than a single metric ton.
Judging from the fossil remains, mainly teeth and vertebrae, along with other evidence, scientists believe that the megalodon was a close relative of the great white shark and has many physical similarities to them. Experts believe that the megalodon was bulky and torpedo-shaped with a crescent-shaped tail, conical snout, and large pectoral and dorsal fins. Their teeth are also formed in much the same manner, with only a few cosmetic differences (and size) between the two species’ teeth.
Megalodons are also thought to share another unique feature with great white sharks: they were not exclusively cold-blooded. They were able to generate body heat with the contractions of their muscles, allowing them to hunt in colder waters than other types of sharks. Indeed, in many ways, megalodons are thought to have been nearly identical to great whites, the only significant difference being the megalodon’s massive size, with a mouth large enough to devour two adult humans side-by-side, if we still shared the oceans with these ancient predators.
North Carolina’s fossil
Recent stories of fossilized megalodon teeth on beaches have been popping up left and right across the world, however, with two recent discoveries in the same place, it seems there is an unusual concentration of the fossils in North Carolina. In July of this year, Harvey Wall, a resident of North Carolina discovered a megalodon tooth buried in the sand at Ocean Isle Beach. Wall posted pictures of his discovery to Facebook, showing that the tooth is over five inches long, easily larger than the palm of his hand.
When interviewed by WECT, Wall told reporters that he was shocked to find the tooth. “I was surprised [it was there]. We were looking for seashells and walking our dogs. I could only see the black part in low tide. I kicked it and it flipped over, exposing the whole tooth.” When asked what he intends to do with his discovery, Wall stated that he will donate it to the local museum located on Ocean Isle Beach, the Museum of Coastal Carolina.
Harvey Wall’s find was far from the first megalodon tooth to be found along North Carolina’s coasts. Earlier this year, in April, teenager Avery Fauth found another tooth while visiting North Topsail Beach. So many megalodon teeth have been discovered in North Carolina, and for so long, that the state actually changed its official state symbol to a megalodon tooth back in 2013. Experts say that while these fossils may be discovered in other places, none match the concentration found in North Carolina, making it the place to go for anyone wanting to try to find one of these enormous, ancient teeth. While chances of making such a discovery are still slim, they are better here than anywhere else on Earth.