By Ryan Morrison For Mailonline
Published: 11:06 BST, 5 October 2020 | Updated: 11:11 BST, 5 October 2020
The massive and fearsome megalodon shark may have been able to reach up to 50ft in length thanks to cannibalism in the womb, researchers claim.
The extinct shark species lived more than 3.6 million years ago and was twice the length of a double-decker bus, according to a team from DePaul University.
The maximum body size of the sharks - that lived worldwide - was found after a more accurate equation was performed based on the size sharks can grow to today.
The US researchers say megalodon reached their massive size thanks to live births, early hatching embryos and cannibalistic feeding on other eggs while in the womb.
This combination of adaptations allowed the giant predator to grow to unparalleled sizes in comparison to other similar shark species from the same period.
The massive and fearsome megalodon shark may have been able to reach up to 50ft in length thanks to cannibalism in the womb, researchers claim
A megalodon could grow up to 50 feet (bottom) and have a dorsal fin almost as tall as the average human. The biggest living species of shark is the great white (top) which grows to 20ft
Before this new study by DePaul University, Chicago, researchers thought the megalodon reached up to 33ft in length, based on fossilised remains - mainly teeth.
The new study set to find out the 'maximum body size' for the shark species - rather than the size an individual may have been based on fossilised teeth.
The team looked at a wider range of sources, including a comparison to maximum lengths of modern shark species - to put the megalodon maximum length at 50ft.
Otodus megalodon is commonly portrayed as a super-sized, monstrous shark, in novels and films such as the 2018 sci-fi thriller 'The Meg'.
This new study illuminates exactly how uniquely gigantic the shark was, according to lead author Kenshu Shimada, a paleobiologist at DePaul University.
While there are a lot of fossils of the megalodon, the biology of extinct species is poorly understood because they are only known through