Megalodons were supersized predators that cruised the world's oceans hunting whales before going extinct some two million years ago (no matter what Discovery has told you). And because their skeletons were made of cartilage rather than bone, just like those of their modern-day cousins, the fearsome sharks didn't leave much behind for scientists to study – except for a treasure trove of fossilised teeth waiting to be unearthed in rivers and fossil beds around the world.

The latest toothy find to surface comes from central Croatia, around 60 kilometres from the capital Zagreb. The hand-sized fossil was reportedly discovered earlier this month in the Kupa River by a local who was searching for shells. According to media reports, a geologist from Zagreb's Natural History Museum has acknowledged that the tooth likely belonged to the giant shark (C. megalodon).


At up to 18cm (seven inches) long, the ginormous teeth certainly help to explain the name: the word megalodon comes from ancient Greek words meaning "giant" and "tooth". Together with their formidable bite force (they outperformed Trex) and massive size (they grew up to 50 feet, or 16 metres), it's no wonder the sharks are ranked among the most powerful predators of all time. 

While the cartilaginous skeletons of megalodons decomposed far too quickly to become fossilised, their teeth, made up of a bone-like material, could withstand the test of time – so aside from a vertebra or two, dental records are the only evidence we have to rely on when learning about these prehistoric animals. And since no one has ever seen an entire megalodon, the teeth have offered up crucial clues about what the sharks might have looked like, what they ate and how they hunted.

"Megalodon teeth are incredibly useful teaching tools, allowing educators to convey just how massive these animals were and open up discussions about evolution, extinction, and ecology while instilling a sense of wonder," writes biologist Andrew David Thaler over at Southern Fried Science.


If hunting for giant shark teeth is your cup of tea, many places, including rivers along America's east coast, have been known to hide a "meg" tooth or two. The fossils can carry a hefty price tag depending on condition, but for around $15 you can claim your very own – in light or dark chocolate. As for the Croatia tooth, with few chips and even colouration, it's about as perfect as can be.

megalodon-sarahs tooth-2015-8-22
For a bit of quality comparison, check out this megalodon tooth belonging to Earth Touch staffer Sarah Keartes. Found in the rivers of South Carolina, the broken tooth shows typical wear and tear you’d expect from such an old fossil.

Top header image: Tony Roberts, Flickr