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For some years, it has been suspected that the megalodon – the terrifying prehistoric shark which could reach lengths of up to 18 meters may still be hiding out in the darkest depths of the ocean. However, new research from the University of Zurich seems to have put these suspicions to rest with a fascinating fossil analysis which has revealed a mass extinction event that scientists previously only suspected.
Scientists discover new extinction event which killed off super-shark
According to scientists, there have been at least five mass extinction events in the history of the world, and there may have been an additional three which have not yet been properly confirmed. The worst of all these events was the ‘Great Dying’ which occurred in the midst of an extraordinarily violent volcanic eruption 252 million years ago which is suspected to have killed off as many as 96% of the species living on Earth at the time.
In addition to this catastrophic event, there have also been several lesser extinction events, such as the incident which led to the extinction of land mammals such as the wooly mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers. Now, the scientists at the University of Zurich claim that just before this event there may have been a similar extinction event in the world’s oceans.
According to the researchers, there was a transition between geographical epochs approximately 2.6 million years ago which featured a very warm period in the Earth’s oceans to a period of extreme glaciation which led to both a rapid drop in the levels of the sea and ocean-wide cooling. This rapid shift in the temperatures of the oceans led to an extreme extinction event in the world’s ocean. It is believed that approximately one-third of all the marine megafauna in the ocean at the time died during this period.
The study, which was published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, explains that marine mammals were the hardest hit by the extinction event. It is believed that 55% of marine mammals in the oceans at the time died. In addition to that, 43% of sea turtles and 35% of seabirds were also killed during this period. Sharks fared a lot better than these species with only 9% of the creatures died out. However, the megalodon was not as lucky as the vast majority of sharks in the period. According to the researchers, the extinction event triggered a destruction of the megalodons food chain which meant that the mighty animal starved to death.
The researchers say that this study may have implications for the present day. They wrote, “the discovery of this extinction event reveals that the biodiversity of marine megafauna was more sensitive to environmental changes in the recent geological past than hitherto assumed.” This means that man-made climate change could be far more serious for the marine megafauna that exists in the world’s oceans today than scientists have previously assumed.