This ancient shark’s tooth was an odd shape. NC researchers try solving the mystery

An ancient shark tooth had a strange shape - and solving the mystery could provide a glimpse into the long-extinct predator.
The deformed tooth is from a megalodon, a giant shark that roamed the ocean millions of years ago.
Researchers in North Carolina decided to take a closer look at the tooth abnormality - called double tooth pathology - to determine if the shark's mouth had been injured. Another consideration was that the animal developed the malformed tooth itself.
"We don't have a lot of data on double tooth pathologies in ancient shark species," said Harrison Miller, a researcher and former student at the N.C. State University, in a press release on May 12. "So this was an opportunity to fill in those gaps — and maybe learn more about the sharks in the process."
To learn more, the researchers examined the megalodon fang, as well as two smaller bull shark fangs, which had the odd shape described as appearing to have split teeth. Then, according to the results published in the journal PeerJ, these teeth were compared to normally shaped specimens.
In the study, the researchers speculate that the megalodon injured its tooth while eating. This is striking because the animals were thought to have had a diet consisting of a more limited range of prey, mainly whales.
"We know that dental deformities in modern day sharks can be caused by something sharp piercing the conveyor belt of developing teeth in the mouth," said Haviv Avrahami, researcher and graduate student at the N.C. State, in the press release. "Based on what we're seeing in modern day sharks, the injury was most likely caused by a spinyfish chewing down or a nasty sting from a stingray."
Scientists say they believe the feeding mishap -- even more so than the shark's own evolution -- was likely the cause of the misshapen tooth, based on information available through the fossil record.
Megalodons lived in the ocean before going extinct about 3.6 million years ago. Their jaws had a strength that could reach 40,000 pounds, and each of their teeth was "the size of an adult human hand," according to the Smithsonian Institution.
"The largest (megalodon sharks) were about 60 feet long and perhaps reached 50 tons, the size and weight of a railroad car," the Smithsonian wrote on its website.
Now researchers say it's possible one of these giant creatures got on a bad luck streak and injured itself.
"When we think of predator-prey encounters, we tend to reserve our sympathy for prey, but the life of a predator, even a gigantic megatooth shark, was no picnic either," says Lindsay Zanno, a researcher associated with N.C. State and the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh said in the press release.
Bones from a whale that went extinct 300 years ago are kept in the couple's garage. NC College donates them
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