Mystery over 'traumatic injury' that split tooth of 65ft Megalodon shark baffles scientists

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THE MYSTERY surrounding a deformed tooth belonging to an ancient megalodon shark may have finally been solved.

In a new study, researchers looked at a four-inch tooth belonging to a 65-foot megalodon that features a groove going down the middle.

Megalodons are an extinct species of mackerel shark that lived approximately 23 to 3.6 million years ago.

These prehistoric creatures can measure up to 70 feet – about the size of three long SUVs.

Given their large size, it only stands that megalodon's teeth are also quite large, growing up to 7 inches long.

However, because shark teeth don't typically suffer trauma, this particular megalodon tooth baffled a team of researchers from North Carolina State University.

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Hoping to find the root of the injury, the team compared the megalodon tooth with that of modern sharks.

After looking at hundreds of shark teeth, the researchers only found two examples of similar split-tooth deformities.

The two teeth belonged to another, but much smaller, ancient shark species, Carcharhinus leucas, which are related to modern-day bull sharks.

After measuring the deformed teeth and conducting CT scans, the team thinks they finally have some answers.

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"Based on what we see in modern sharks, the injury was most likely caused by chomping down on a spiny fish or taking a nasty stab from a stingray barb," study co-author and NC State doctoral student Haviv Avrahami said.

"We also know that megalodon had nesting grounds around Panama and that relatives of modern stingray species also inhabited that area," researcher and NC State graduate Harrison Miller said.

"And these spines can get very thick. So a tooth injury of this type could indicate that megalodon was more of a generalist predator – and that this megalodon in particular just had a bad day."

The scientists explained that the team ruled out disease or infection because sharks "seem to be particularly resistant to getting sick with infections."

Avrahami noted that if the tooth injury reached the shark's jaw, it would have probably caused a great deal of pain, maybe even enough to hinder its hunting.

Megalodon was one of the biggest predators that ever lived – for perspective, the biggest sharks in our oceans today, great whites, only grow up to 20 feet long.

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Still, this new research shows that just because a predator is large and powerful, it doesn't mean it's immune to all pain.

"When we think of predator-prey encounters, we tend to reserve our sympathy for the prey, but the life of a predator, even a gigantic megatooth shark, was no cakewalk either," Lindsay Zanno, head of paleontology at N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences told ABC11.

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