The Megalodon was an 59 feet (18 meter) long shark said to have roamed the entirety of Earth's ocean. Of course, it's quite extinct. However, what if somehow it managed to survive all the way to the Medieval Era? A shark over half the size of a Galley back then and it was one of the largest ships during its time. It also had a estimated bite force of 108,514 N (24,390 lb) to 182,201 N (40,960 lb) which is around 7 times a Crocodiles bite force. And if Crocs can ruin the motor on modern ships...

Would the very existence of Megalodon cause all Sea travel to grind to a halt?

Bonus: If so, how could these ships be defended? (With the technology of the Medieval ages. We can't have you dropping a depth charge treat can we)

  • $\begingroup$ Well, territorial issues may pose a problem - but did Megalodon actually have a territory? Anyway though, dinosaurs still don't seem like the most tempered creatures around to me... $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 13:18
  • $\begingroup$ @HarryDavid I'm not sure they could mark their territory even if they had one. What do you mean by tempered? $\endgroup$
    – Skye
    Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 13:20
  • $\begingroup$ Tempered: an interpretation of a person/creatures temperament (state of mind) in the sense of being calm or agitated. I meant dinosaurs weren't the most placid or cuddly creatures, in my mind at least. I still want one as a pet though... $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 13:26
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    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate: Building a Megalodon proof boat. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 13:51
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    $\begingroup$ The thing about wooden boats is that they're not terribly edible, unless you happen to be a termite. So, unless you're a termite, you wouldn't try to eat a boat. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 14:20

4 Answers 4



Megaladon is not fundamentally a more fearsome or ferocious beast than a sperm whale, which is also carnivorous, of similar size, probably smarter, and has as documented capability to sink 240 ton sailing vessels.

Humans have hunted sperm whales, probably since pre-history. Even to the modern day, they do it by jumping off a boat and stabbing them with a pointy stick. Thats pretty rad. Humans would HUNT, KILL, and EAT megalodons, just like they would anything else in Earth's biosphere.

Questions about the ability of various mega-fauna to compete with humans are laughable. Humans are the most merciless, deadly predator to ever grace this planet. You and I might be computer-bound bums with poor vision, but our ancestors were super-intelligent, awesomely effective pack hunters. No creature alive, from a blue whale to army ants, stood a chance against a pack of cave men.

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    $\begingroup$ Holy crap, the story of the Essex is just plain crazy! You got my upvote though for 'stabbing them with a pointy stick', that made me laugh. $\endgroup$
    – Shaun K
    Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 14:05
  • $\begingroup$ This is too comical for me not to upvote. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 16:15


Whales didn't stop anything at all and they're larger than Megalodon and fairly destructive when they've been stabbed with a spear. I don't know who'd be fool enough to spear a mega-shark...

Since ships are largely wooden, there wouldn't really be a reason for the mega-shark to attack a ship unless it looked like prey.

For defence (if mega-sharks turned nasty), you use large nets. They'd be big enough to foul the shark's movements until it suffocated.

  • $\begingroup$ A lot of this depends on whether humans would be on the menu for Megalodon. Great Whites, their closest relatives, normally don't care about humans, they're too bony and low in fat compared to seals etc. On the other hand, if Megalodon acted more like Tiger sharks, eating everything they came across, they might figure out that wooden ships contain food. $\endgroup$
    – Cyrus
    Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 13:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Cyrus - I'm not sure humans on ships would be worth the risk of self-injury when chomping into ships. Plus, there tends to be a lot more food under the surface than above it... $\endgroup$
    – user10945
    Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 13:11
  • $\begingroup$ The thing is, if the Megalodon in this world was already in decline, being outcompeted by Orcas and Great Whites, humans might make an decent backup food source when it's hard to find whales and other food. $\endgroup$
    – Cyrus
    Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 13:14
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    $\begingroup$ My theory was that they might mistake ships as whales or such, thus they would charge towards the ship from below and the rest is history. $\endgroup$
    – Skye
    Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 13:14
  • $\begingroup$ One of the Galleys in the link you provided weighed 239 tons UNLOADED. By comparison, the average megalodon was probably in the 60 ton range. I have a feeling the shark wouldn't enjoy charging a ship very much. $\endgroup$
    – SethWhite
    Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 14:24

Unlikely. For starters, human ships in this era hugged the coastlines for the most part, while large sharks are typically deep water hunters. Second, the hull of a ship has a profile that wouldn't register as prey for the megalodon, unless it was in cloudy or bloody water. Finally, sailors back then DID think there were "sea monsters" in the ocean, yet they still went out. Plus European waters are cold, so they would be less likely to be found there. Since megs probably ate whales most of the time, the most likely time humans would encounter them would be while whaling. European whaling was mostly in the cold northern waters, so again, little chance finding a shark there. Pacific cultures may have learned of them though.

Of greater concern is the adaptive pressure the continued existence of megs may have placed on other marine life. One would think that aggressive predatory whales may have become even more so, and even plankton feeding whales may have developed more defenses. So the whaling industry may have been much more dangerous. Other species of large fish and marine animals may also have become more dangerous (or been driven extinct by the meg). And of course if the meg survived, what other Miocene macro-predators also survived? There were giant crocodiles during that time as well, and those probably WOULD be a direct threat to humans.


Do Megalodons like to chew on ships?

If the answer is no, the answer is "Don't worry about it. They are just like whales. Huge, pretty to look at but completely harmless to ships." The answer is likely to be no if the Megalodon's prey-not-prey filter does not identify a ship as prey.

If the answer is yes, the answer will be a bit more complicated. Just remember, Megalodons ate pretty much everything that moved.

Yes, they do

...then we can expect a mix of passive and active measures to thin the Megalodon "herds" or negate their threat. Assuming that Megalodon attacks are fairly rare, it's still worth it for ships and crews to go fishing, trading or raiding. These forays onto the sea will be the test fleet to show what works and what does not in terms of survivability.

Passive Measures

Armor Plating - Despite the unprecedented bite force of the Megalodon, if the ship can make itself hard enough to chew then perhaps the Megalodon will look elsewhere.

Active Measures

"Sharking" Ships - Just as whaling ships go looking for whales to kill and process, so too would a sharking ship.

Lookouts - Active measures such as spearing or poisoning require the crew to know when a Megalodon is in the area.


Make it a delicacy - Humans, for some really odd reason find that anything labelled a "delicacy" is really good eating despite everyone else's opinion that it's completely disgusting. Have some enterprising chef make a dish featuring Megalodon steak. As these things often go, demand for Megalodon flesh will increase thus making it profitable to hunt it. If it's very risky to hunt giant sharks, then the price will be very high (thus ensuring a constant stream of fisherman wanting to make their fortunes).


Yes, Megalodons are the top predator of the sea but they're no match for tool-using monkeys.

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    $\begingroup$ Hunting sharks in a similar way to whales would have been a very frustrating and relatively ineffective task. Whales have to come up to breath regularly, and typically don't go very deep. Sharks on the other hand can pretty much dive as deep as they please and stay down there indefinitely. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 27, 2018 at 5:33

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