- How could scientists determine the length of Megalodon using fossil teeth?
- How do scientists use modern sharks to help them gain understanding of fossil sharks?
Resources and Materials
- Megalodon Student Handout and data collection sheet
- Megalodon PowerPoint
- Student Interactive Notebooks
- 2D (upper | lower) — or — 3D Megalodon teeth
- For size accuracy, do not resize images. The images provided are life-size and high resolution (300dpi).
- iPads or Laptops (optional)
- Calculators (optional)
Key Academic and/or Scientific Language
Fossil, paleontology, algorithm, crown height, lateral, anterior, posterior, root, neonate, juvenile, adult, lingual, labial, serrations, bourlette
What knowledge and skills will students acquire?
Student will be able to:
- Use an interactive notebook
- Collaborate with peers during discussions
- Take measurements in millimeters
- Convert between units
- Ask questions about the scientific process when determining Megalodon total length
- Understand relationships between modern and fossil sharks
- Identify basic parts of a Megalodon tooth
- Solve a linear equation
- Identify and discuss variables that cause discrepancies in total length calculations
- Student handouts will be assessed for completeness and math computation
- Student reflections on data analysis will show understanding of variables that cause differences in total length calculations
- Questions about the activity and outcomes will be included on unit assessment
How big was Megalodon?
Driving Question: How do scientists determine total length of Megalodon sharks using only fossil shark teeth?
- Science Starter (to be completed in students’ interactive notebook): What is a fossil? What does a fossil tell scientists about the past?
- Distribute student activity worksheets
- Share Power Point presentation “How Big Was Megalodon?” Refer to the notes on each slide of the power point to guide you through the process of determining Megalodon Total Length.
- Once a basic introduction of Megalodon and the activity have taken place distribute the 2D or 3D teeth (If working in groups you may choose to give both a 2D and 3D tooth for the students to work with. This will facilitate a discussion about experiences with 3D vs. 2D model.) Give students a couple of minutes to look at their tooth.
- Copy the student data chart onto a white board or smart board. Have one student from each group share their data on the class chart.
- Analyze the class data and determine what could have caused different total length calculations. Students should be able to determine that crown height and tooth location in the jaw produced the differences in the total length.
Megalodon is a perfect specimen to introduce concepts of geometry in a science class. Download the following materials:
Geometry of Megalodon Powerpoint
Megalodon measurements handout
- Nyberg KG, Ciampaglio CN, Wray GA (2006) Tracing the ancestry of the Great White Shark, Carcharodon carcharias, using morphometric analyses of fossil teeth. J Vertebrate Paleontology 26: 806-814.
- Pimiento C, Ehret DJ, MacFadden BJ, Hubbell G (2010) Ancient nursery area for the extinct giant shark Megalodon from the Miocene of Panama. Plos One, 5(5):e10552.
- Shimada K (2003) The relationship between the tooth size and total body length in the white shark, Carcharodon carcharias (Lamniformes: Lamnidae). J Fossil Res 35: 28-33.
- Gottfried MD, Compagno IJV, Bowman SC (1996) Size and skeletal anatomy of the giant megatooth shark Carcharodon megalodon. In Klimley Ap, Ainley DG, eds. Great white sharks: the biology of Carcharodon carcharias. San Diego: Academic Press. pp 55-89.