Megalodon, the largest shark that ever lived, is known only from its gigantic bladelike teeth, which can be more than 7 inches long. But these teeth, described by some scientists as the "ultimate cutting tools," took millions of years to evolve into their final, iconic form.
Megalodon's earliest ancestor, Otodus obliquus, sported three-pronged teeth that could have acted like a fork for grasping and tearing fast-moving fishes. In later megatooth shark species, teeth flattened and developed serrated edges, transitioning to a knifelike shape for killing and eating fleshy animals like whales and dolphins.
But the final tooth evolution in this lineage of powerful predators still took 12 million years, a new study shows. An analysis of teeth from megalodon and its immediate ancestor, Carcharocles chubutensis, traced the unusually slow, gradual shift from a large tooth flanked by mini-teeth -- known as lateral cusplets -- to teeth without these structures.
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