WSU professor’s work on world’s largest shark part of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week
By Meagan Pant
This Shark Week, Wright State University professor Chuck Ciampaglio will share some nightmarish details about a prehistoric predator the Discovery Channel dubbed “Sharkzilla.”
Actually named megalodon — which means “big tooth” — it was one of the largest carnivores that ever lived, with teeth seven inches long, a mouth big enough to swallow a small boat and a bite force estimated at 20,000 pounds, said Ciampaglio, one of only a handful of scientist worldwide to study the shark.
“Megalodon was probably the apex predator of all time,” Ciampaglio tells viewers in the episode. “People think T. rex or something like that — it’s dwarfed by megalodon. Megalodon was huge, maybe even 70 feet long. T. rex wouldn’t have a chance against this thing. T. rex’s head would fit in this guy’s mouth.”
Discovery Channel’s 25th anniversary Shark Week begins Sunday, and the episode featuring Ciampaglio airs at 9 p.m. Monday. Viewers will see just how large Sharkzilla was based on size of his teeth, jaw and vertebrae, which have been found.
“I think a lot of people are going to be quite shocked to see that,” said Ciampaglio, who teaches earth and environmental sciences at both of WSU’s campuses in Fairborn and the Lake Campus in Celina. He has been an associate professor at WSU since 2003.
For the episode, Ciampaglio helped create a large model jaw made of cast iron and steel with a hydraulic power system for the bite, according to WSU. The MythBusters will test the bite power, according to Discovery.
Ciampaglio has been researching the shark since he first found one of its massive teeth as a Ph.D student of paleontology at Duke University.
“When you find your first megalodon tooth, it’s kind of a big deal. It’s like finding that big gold nugget. They look sometimes like they just came out of the mouth,” he said.
Since then, he has been disproving rumors, such as one that the megalodon is related to the great white shark about one-third its size, and pursuing theories about how it became extinct, which Ciampaglio said could be because food was too scarce.
Ciampaglio has worked with the Discovery Channel before for the Prehistoric Predators show, according to WSU. Filming the “Sharkzilla” episode took him for four days to Sharktooth Hill in Bakersfield, Calif. The show also visited his lab in Celina and Technifex Inc. in Valencia, where the monster megalodon choppers was created.
“To have it during Shark Week, that’s pretty neat,” he said.
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