Megalodon and Great White Shark Graveyard Discovered at Bottom of Ocean

An underwater shark graveyard housing hundreds of fossilized shark teeth has been discovered off the coast of Western Australia. Among the specimens was a tooth from the ancient ancestor of the extinct monster predator, the megalodon.

The unusual discovery was made by researchers from Australia's National Science Agency (CSIRO) during a biodiversity survey at the new Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park. During these surveys, researchers cast nets into the water to sample the different animal species that live there.

Dianne Bray, senior collections officer for the Museums Victoria Research Institute that was part of the voyage, told ABC News that, at first, the team were disappointed with what their net had brought up. "Initially we thought it was just full of sediment and manganese nodules."

It was not until they looked closer at the net's contents that they realized what they had found.

Tooth of a megalodon ancestor
Photo of the tooth from the Megalodon ancestor and other shark teeth collected from the shark "graveyard". Yi-Kai Tea/CSIRO

"It was amazing, it really was," she said.

In total, around 750 shark teeth were identified, brought up from a depth of nearly 18,000 feet. "Not all were fossils, some were relatively recent mako sharks and two species of great white shark relatives."

Perhaps the most exciting specimen was a tooth that the researchers believe belonged to the ancient ancestor of the now-extinct megalodon shark.

"This shark evolved into the megalodon, which was the largest of all sharks but died out about 3.5 million years ago," Glenn Moore, Curator of Fishes at the WA Museum, said in a statement.

The megalodon is a prehistoric predator that dates back at least 20 million years. Its name literally means "large tooth", and the beast definitely lived up to its name. Megalodons are estimated to have grown to lengths of up to 65 feet, and their teeth are often the size of a human hand.

Moore said that it was astounding to find so many teeth in such a small area of the seafloor.

"I have never seen anything like this, or heard of anything like that," he told ABC News. "It's a unique opportunity to have an almost complete collection from one spot."

Shark tooth collection
Photo of the teeth collected from the CSIRO trawl. In total, 750 teeth were collected, from a depth of nearly 18,000 feet. Yi-Kai Tea/CSIRO

It is still not clear why so many shark teeth were gathered in the same place. "I don't know of any obvious explanation of why they might all be together other than perhaps it was a low point in the ocean floor, so they would eventually make their way down," Moore said.

These findings highlight the importance of conducting biodiversity surveys on the ocean floor to gain an insight into the animals that live–or once lived–in our seas.

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