Deformities such as pathologies and pseudopathologies found within fossil specimens can be informative about an ancient species. One species in particular about which we still know far too little is Carcharodon megalodon (the largest shark species in history). In this study I examined the types of pathologies and pseudopathologies and their frequency in C. megalodon teeth in order to determine their patterns of occurrence and what they meant for the species. From this research and future research, I hope to be able to draw insight into factors of C. megalodon life, such as its hunting style and be able to compare the patterns of pathology and pseudopathlogy in C. megalodon to other shark species in an attempt to determine whether C. megalodon belongs to the genus Carhcarodon or the genus Carcharocles. The research I conducted consisted of recording data on C. megalodon teeth from the Field Museum. I recorded general information including the size of the teeth, their positions in the mouth, and whether there were any pathologies or pseudopathologies and if so, what types. I then determined the rates of pathology and pseudopathology in the teeth sorted by different variables in order to understand how each variable effects the pathology rate.
I found that as size increases, the rate of both pathology and pseudopathology increases and that more often than not, pathologies and pseudopathologies occur towards the front of the mouth. In addition to physical reasons, there may also be behavioral reasons for why large teeth seem to be more susceptible to pathology and pseudopathology such as the larger, adult C. megalodon sharks hunted larger prey such as whales and other marine mammals (as apposed to the fish that juveniles hunted), and the bone of marine mammals enable the teeth to be knocked out and bitten more easily. A possible explanation for the pattern of pathology relating to teeth from the front area of the mouth of C. megalodon is that this area had a greater chance for injury from feeding and thus, a greater chance for the formation of pathologies and pseudopathologies.
Ryan Shanks, ’16
Des Moines, IA
Sponsor: John Orcutt