Megalodons were the largest sharks to have ever lived. These extinct fish were likely at least 10.5 metres (34 feet) long, well over twice the size of its cousin, the great white shark. But even this aquatic beast had a caring side.
You just needed to be one of its pups. (What's that? Okay, sure. We'll do it.)
Correction. You just needed to be one of its ... baaa-by sharks, doot doo doo-doo doo-doo, ba-by sharks ...
Fierce hunters, great moms
How do we know about this behaviour? From Spain to Panama, paleontologists have been discovering Megalodon nurseries—these are the areas where the mother sharks would've watched over and raised their young as they grew into the most feared predators in their prehistoric ocean.
Aww, can't wait until you grow up, little Pedro. You're going to just terrorize all those fish, yes you will, you cutie! Show Mommy those teeth! Oh, they are just the living end!
Anyway, this behaviour is also observed in modern sharks. They choose areas in the ocean to watch over their young until they are juveniles of about 4 or 5 years. Then those sharks are free to wander the wider ocean.
Teeth tell the tale
Of course, finding evidence of shark nurseries from around 15 million years ago is a bit tricky. Megalodons didn't exactly leave a bunch of playpens or soothers laying around for paleontologists to stumble across. And then there's the fact that, as a cartilaginous fish, sharks don't leave behind a bunch of bones the way many other prehistoric animals do.
Instead, researchers search for the only thing that really survives the millions of years. The teeth!
In a recent find in a quarry (open rock pit) in Spain, scientists found 25 Megalodon teeth that ranged in size as coming from sharks about a month old to juveniles that were a few years old. This collection of teeth indicates that this used to be a part of the ocean floor where a nursery was found. Neat!
So while we wouldn't want to swim next to a Megalodon, we do find it comforting that they were at least big softies towards their kids. Remind us to pack our baby shark costume in our time machine!