Friday, 24 October 2014

Monster shark 'kept whales in check'

23 October 2014 Last updated at 16:23

By Paul Rincon
Science editor, BBC News website

The extinction of the biggest shark known to science may have triggered whales to grow to their current hefty sizes, a study suggests.

Megalodon, an ancient 14-18m-long predator that resembled a super-sized Great White, may have preyed on primitive baleen whales.

These whales were typically smaller than their counterparts today.

In their paper, the researchers produce what they say is the best estimate yet for the date of Megalodon's extinction.

This date of 2.6 million years ago falls on the border between the Pliocene and Pleistocene epochs. And it was after this point that baleen whales began to grow to their gigantic sizes.

Marine mammals are thought to have constituted an important part of the 50-tonne shark's diet. Though there's no conclusive evidence they fed on baleen whales, their fossils are often found along with Megalodon (Carcharocles megalodon) teeth.

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