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Sorry, Researchers Didn't Find a 40-Ton Megalodon Shark Alive

The ancient apex predator megalodon is still extinct.

A fish scanner image shows a large red shark shape against a bright blue background.
This fish scanner image came from a recent Atlantic Shark Institute research trip. 
Atlantic Shark Institute/Jon F. Dodd

I would love it if massive whale-munching megalodon sharks were found roaming the deeps of the ocean. But, alas, they are extinct. Some tabloid headlines might make it sound like "the Meg" has returned (and not just as CGI in a Hollywood movie), but there's a solid explanation for a 50-foot-long shark shape that appeared on a fish scanner during a recent research trip.

The Atlantic Shark Institute, a nonprofit shark research group, shared a stunning image on social media on Sunday showing a massive shark-shaped blob seen by a fish finder. 

Megalodon was a famous apex predator, the biggest shark that ever lived, but it went extinct millions of years ago. The length of the red blob seen on the scanner would have correlated to a 50-foot-long (15-meter), 40-ton shark -- putting it within the known size range for a megalodon.

The real explanation was more mundane. It was merely a fortuitous formation of fish. "We waited for one of the rods to go off however, much to our disappointment, the shape started to transition into a large school of Atlantic mackerel that hung around the boat for about 15 minutes," the institute said.

The shark researchers were amused by the image, which appeared for several minutes. "So close, but so far! The megalodon (Otodus megalodon), disappeared more than 3 million years ago and will likely stay that way, but, for a few minutes, we thought he had returned!" the team said. In Facebook comments, the organization emphasized the post was meant to be funny. The researchers never seriously thought megalodon had reappeared.

While megalodon is still gone, there are plenty of modern-day mysterious ocean critters to keep us fascinated with the wonders of the deep. Check out this this unusual squid and this intriguing tentacle creature. And if you like big animals, then take a gander at this giant silly-string-like siphonophore. They're not sharks, but they're awesome nonetheless.