The largest shark ever to roam the oceans recently went on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. The life-sized model of the extinct species Carcharocles megalodon stretches 16 meters (52 feet) from nose to tail. That’s longer than a school bus!
Gary Staab, who made the sculpture, creates models of ancient animals for museums all over the world. He normally relies on fossils, the preserved remains of living things, to determine what prehistoric creatures would have looked like. But sharks’ bodies are mostly made up of cartilage, a soft, rubbery tissue that usually breaks down before it can fossilize. The only preserved parts of the megalodon were its hard teeth and bones from its spine.
Staab compared these fossilized parts with those of modern shark species. That helped him predict the size and shape of the rest of his megalodon. The finished model’s open mouth is big enough for Staab to fit inside. “It was an amazingly epic project,” he says.