2.5-million-year-old Megalodon Tooth Stolen from Secret Location in Australia
Today’s news would be amusing if it was not, in fact, saddening for the scientific community. You read it correctly: somebody stole a Megalodon tooth from a secret location in West Australia.
If you do not know what Megalodon is, we want to remind you it was the biggest shark (as far as we know today) that ever surfed the planet’s oceans back in the Paleolithic era. The Megalodon is an extinct species of shark that lived approximately 23 to 2.6 million years ago, during the Early Miocene to the end of the Pliocene. There had been some debate regarding the taxonomy of the Megalodon, but one thing is certain: it was a gigantic creature that had a profound impact on the structure of marine communities.
The fossils found so far indicate that the giant monster focused on large prey, such as whales, seals, and giant turtles. Fossils also show the adult versions of this prehistoric shark was one of the largest and most powerful predators to have ever lived. It could reach a length of around 18 meters (60 feet) and about 100 tons in weight, being thus about 30 times heavier than the largest great white shark. Its teeth were thick and robust, built for grabbing prey and breaking bones.
And with this, we reach the topic of today’s piece of news: a valuable 4-inch long Megalodon tooth has been stolen from a remote and supposedly secret location at an Australian World Heritage site, according to wildlife officials. Megalodon fossils have been found across the world, including in Europe, Africa, Australia, and the Americas, confirming the whale-eating shark had a cosmopolitan distribution.
Parks and Wildlife’s Exmouth district manager Arvid Hogstrom reported that his office has learned of the disappearance occurring in Cape Range National Park, but did not know when it was stolen, as the staff did not visit the site regularly. The missing Megalodon tooth was one of two Megalodon teeth located in the Unesco World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Coast, according to Western Australia’s Department of Environment and Conservation. According to the spokesperson, “The worst part is they took the better specimen, which was not so well known.”
The fossil was preserved at the site and hidden with vegetation, natural elements, and rocks, to keep it hidden until further conservation strategies would have been put in place because the tooth was still attached to a rock. Cape Range National Park rangers had hidden the fossil under a special cover and then hid it with rocks. Only a handful of people were believed to be aware of its location.
Unluckily, for everyone, the thief or thieves stole the hidden and semi-secret tooth, while the other one, visited by tourists, was left in place. According to the wildlife site representatives, only a few people knew the exact location of the Megalodon tooth, as it was not a touristic exhibit. A few locals and some other people from the site, while above suspicion, may have accidentally told others where the tooth was.
“Not even all our staff knew where it was or even existed. But obviously, word gets around. How it got back to the person who took it, we just don’t know. There’s definitely got to have been some information passed on,” said district manager Arvid Hogstrom.
The stealing could have taken only 10 minutes, authorities say. The culprits may have used a lever, a hammer or a chisel to remove the tooth out from the rock.
The theft surprised everybody, as the tooth seems to have little monetary value. While nobody estimated its worth, officials say it cannot cost more than a few thousand dollars. On the other hand, the idea of a private collector did not skip anyone.
Hogstrom also said he was for the tooth’s return while fearing this particular Megalodon tooth was gone forever: “Someone might not understand what they have taken and give it back to us. But I wouldn’t be putting money on it.”
We should all hope it reappears, though, as it is an important piece of the planet’s history and a step further for us to learn and understand Earth better.
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