• Madeleine Perham

'Could a Megalodon eat a bus?'

This question threw me. For two reasons: first, I had forgotten the existence of prehistoric giant sharks (today’s lesson was diary entries: a morning in the life of your favourite dinosaur). Second, because a bus was glancing past the window and I swear I saw the wheels suddenly screech away like a bright red deer, just in case something was about to smash through the pavement with a short and toothy greeting.

(Photo credit to Herschel Hoffmeyer/Shutterstock)

Megalodons (which means ‘big tooth’) don’t exist anymore: the water’s too cold and they’d leave too many bite marks to go unnoticed. That is the last reassuring thought you’ll get in this particular post.

According to research by Emma Bernard at the Natural History Museum (collected by Josh Davies), they dominated the ocean between 20 and 3.6 million years ago, casting ominous shadows between 15 and 18 metres long over the edible sealife (3 times longer than the largest recorded great white shark). A Bristol and Swansea study that hypothetically reconstructed our giant toothy friend estimates a 5-metre-long head and a tail nearly of 4 metres. Perhaps it’s less ‘could a megalodon eat a bus’ and more ‘ketchup or BBQ’.

These measurements are all based on the teeth: some of which we’ve found, some of which have left marks on whale bones. To swallow an unfortunate whale our giant shark would need a jaw 2.7 metres high and 3.4 metres wide, big enough to swallow two adult people.

(From the Natural History website: a Megalodon tooth next to a Great White Shark's)

Buses do exist, but generally their teeth are much less of a problem. The average London bus is 18.75 metres long, 2.55 metres wide and around 5 metres tall. So, definitely bigger than the jaws of a Megalodon, and the gust of wind you’re hearing is the bus depots of London breathing a sigh of relief.

But a hungry Megalodon is creative.

The bite power of a human is about 1,317 Newtons. The Megalodon closes its jaws with a force of between 108,514 and 182,201 Newtons. The average bus window is made of tempered glass, which could be broken by an immensely strong human with a solid object - or one hungry shark.

The key to eating a bus (words I thought I’d never type) is much like cracking a steel Easter egg: with one steady thumb, or one battle-chipped dinosaur tooth, we put stress on the object’s surface by pushing down with extreme force until it snaps. Once your chocolate/window snaps, you can bite your way around until you’ve enjoyed the petrol-fused nutrients of a TfL bus.

So a megalodon could probably eat a bus - but would they? Given their carnivorous instincts, I suspect they’d be more interested in any passengers on the primeval bus routes.