The greatest shark to ever swim the oceans had big, sharp, serrated teeth that it might utilize to tear into its victim like a handful of knives.

However nature didn’t simply hand these instant-killing weapons to these ancient sharks, called megalodons Rather, it took countless years for the teeth to develop into their last, deadly type, according to a brand-new research study released on March 1 in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology

To comprehend the advancement of megalodon’s killer teeth, scientists at the Florida Museum of Nature performed some ancient oral evaluations. They examined 359 fossils of teeth discovered– mainly by amateur fossil collectors– on the Calvert Cliffs, which lie on the coast of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. [Photos: These Animals Used to Be Giants]

About 20 million to 7.6 million years earlier, this location became part of the ocean, according to a declaration from the museum. And now, these dry hills hold ratings of fossilized teeth from the 2 enormous sharks that swam through the water throughout that time duration: megalodon and its most instant forefather, a shark called Carcharocles chubutensis

Previous research study has actually revealed that megalodon’s earliest forefather, called Otodus obliquus, which lived in between 60 million to 40 million years earlier, had smooth teeth with “cusplets,” or tiny teeth, that surrounded either sides of the primary tooth. These three-pronged teeth might have been utilized like a fork for grasping and tearing into victim, according to the declaration.

The megaladon's knife-like teeth evolved over millions of years. The megaladon's earliest ancestor, the <em> Otodus obliquus</em>, had cusplets, or “mini teeth” on either side (left). Another ancestor, <em> carcharocles auriculatus</em>, also had cusplets, but its main tooth evolved tiny bumps, or serrations, around its edges (middle). The megadolon had flat, blade-like, serrated teeth with no cusplets (right).”></p>
<p>< img class = Credit: Florida Museum image by Kristen Grace

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Fossils from the cliffs exposed that sharks started to lose these cusplets as time went on. The scientists discovered that about87 percent of sharks that lived 20 million to17 million years earlier had these cusplets, whereas by145 million years earlier, just33 percent of sharks had them. By 7.6 million years earlier, the cusplets had actually vanished totally from the fossil record, the research study discovered

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(**** ). The scientists likewise discovered some teeth had small bumps, or serrations, around the edges, while others did not.

The shift from three-pronged teeth to broad, flat teeth with consistent serrations “was a long, dragged out procedure, ultimately leading to the ideal cutting tool,” lead research study author Victor Perez, a post-doctoral trainee in geology at the Florida Museum of Nature, stated in the declaration. “It’s not yet clear why this procedure took countless years and why [the cusplet] function was lost.”

Nevertheless, the scientists assume that the shift had something to do with a shift in the method ancient sharks hunted, and maybe even what they consumed. While three-pronged teeth might’ve been practical for comprehending victim such as fast-moving fish or perhaps for avoiding food from getting stuck in teeth (even ancient sharks might get gum illness), the cusplet-less, serrated teeth might have been utilized to instantly overrule victim, Perez stated.

The more recent, knife-like teeth likewise would’ve been practical in removing fleshy victim like whales and dolphins, Perez stated. Serrated teeth would have enabled a “single-strike strategy,” in which the megalodon bites into its victim and permits it to bleed out. So if rather, the shark continued to comprehend victim in its jaws, the whale or dolphin may have surged about and hurt the shark.

Whatever their function, the factor for the shift from three-pronged teeth to serrated teeth is “still a secret,” Perez stated. “We’re questioning if something was fine-tuned in the hereditary path of tooth advancement.”

Initially released on Live Science