Cenozoic megatooth sharks occupied extremely high trophic positions

Emma R. Kast, Michael L. Griffiths, Sora L. Kim, Zixuan C. Rao, Kenshu Shimada, Martin A. Becker, Harry M. Maisch, Robert A. Eagle, Chelesia A. Clarke, Allison N. Neumann, Molly E. Karnes, Tina Lüdecke, Jennifer N. Leichliter, Alfredo Martínez-García, Alliya A. Akhtar, Xingchen T. Wang, Gerald H. Haug, Daniel M. Sigman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Trophic position is a fundamental characteristic of animals, yet it is unknown in many extinct species. In this study, we ground-truth the 15N/14N ratio of enameloid-bound organic matter (δ15NEB) as a trophic level proxy by comparison to dentin collagen δ15N and apply this method to the fossil record to reconstruct the trophic level of the megatooth sharks (genus Otodus). These sharks evolved in the Cenozoic, culminating in Otodus megalodon, a shark with a maximum body size of more than 15 m, which went extinct 3.5 million years ago. Very high δ15NEB values (22.9 ± 4.4%) of O. megalodon from the Miocene and Pliocene show that it occupied a higher trophic level than is known for any marine species, extinct or extant. δ15NEB also indicates a dietary shift in sharks of the megatooth lineage as they evolved toward the gigantic O. megalodon, with the highest trophic level apparently reached earlier than peak size.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbereabl6529
JournalScience Advances
Issue number25
StatePublished - Jun 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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