Did the giant extinct shark Carcharocles megalodon target small prey? Bite marks on marine mammal remains from the late Miocene of Peru

Alberto Collareta, Olivier Lambert, Walter Landini, Claudio Di Celma, Elisa Malinverno, Rafael Varas-Malca, Mario Urbina, Giovanni Bianucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

30 Scopus citations

Abstract

. We report on bite marks incising fossil mammal bones collected from upper Miocene deposits of the Pisco Formation exposed at Aguada de Lomas (southern Peru) and attributed to the giant megatooth shark Carcharocles megalodon. The bitten material includes skull remains referred to small-sized baleen whales as well as fragmentary cetacean and pinniped postcrania. These occurrences, the first in their kind from the Southern Hemisphere, significantly expand the still scarce record of bite marks for C. megalodon; moreover, for the first time a prey (or scavenging item) of C. megalodon is identified at the species level (as Piscobalaena nana, a diminutive member of the extinct mysticete family Cetotheriidae). Due to the fragmentary nature of the studied material, the exact origin of the detected marks (i.e., by scavenging or by active predation) cannot be ascertained. Nevertheless, relying on actualistic observations and size-based considerations, we propose that diminutive mysticetes (e.g., cetotheriids) were some of the target prey of adult C. megalodon, at least along the coast of present-day Peru. C. megalodon is thus here interpreted as an apex predator whose trophic spectrum was focused on relatively small-sized prey. Lastly, we propose a link between the recent collapse of various lineages of diminutive mysticetes (observed around 3 Ma) and the extinction of C. megalodon (occurring around the end of the Pliocene).
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)84-91
Number of pages8
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Volume469
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2017

Keywords

  • Co-extinction
  • Megatooth shark
  • Piscobalaena nana
  • Predation
  • Scavenging
  • Shark bite marks

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