For quite a few years, this dramatic image of a Megalodon shark tooth embedded in an ancient whale vertebra has been making the rounds on the internet. As crazy as it might seem, the truth is not as exciting.
To start, if you look carefully at both the tooth and the vertebra, you’ll notice that they are two different colors. This means that they were fossilized in different sediments. Therefore, if the shark tooth had been embedded in the whale bone all these years, it would have been the same color as the whale bone. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Let’s say the Megalodon tooth and the whale bone were both the same color and had been preserved in the same sediment. Would this fascinating fossil still hold up to the test of time? Not quite.
If you look at where the shark’s tooth is embedded, you’ll notice that it’s right in the middle of the whale’s spinal column. Unless the shark was gnawing on a whale spine that had already been disconnected from the whale, there’s just no way it could become embedded in that part of the vertebra.
Lastly, shark teeth are strong, but they’re not made of steel. There are many fossilized whale bones with shark bite marks, but the teeth are always broken. The teeth simply cannot stand up against the bite force into the bone — and wouldn’t be found embedded fully intact.
Don’t believe us? Check out this blog post from the Paleontology Lab at the Virginia Museum of Natural History about the subject of shark teeth and whale bones. They have some incredible pictures of some rare fossils that clearly exhibit shark bite damage on whale bones, and bite force damage to shark teeth.