You may have heard of the giant prehistoric shark called megalodon. And maybe other megafauna, like Megalosaurus or even the mighty mechanical Megasaurus. But LiveScience is bringing a new killer to the ranks of the big and deadly – hungry schools of Megapiranha:
If this is so, Megapiranha may be an intermediate step in the long process that produced the piranha’s distinctive bite. To find out where Megapiranha falls in the evolutionary tree for these fishes, Dahdul examined hundreds of specimens of modern piranhas and their relatives.
“What’s cool about this group of fish is their teeth have really distinctive features. A single tooth can tell you a lot about what species it is and what other fishes they’re related to,” Dahdul said. Her phylogenetic analysis confirmed her hunch – Megapiranha seems to fit between piranhas and pacu in the fish family tree.
Pacu, like Megapiranha, are around three feet long. Unlike Megapiranha, they exclusively grazed on plants. Megapiranha may have engaged in the same behavior as modern, tiny piranha and prehistoric carnosaurs – a feeding strategy known as flesh grazing.
(By the way, you probably noticed that the capitalizations are uneven in that first paragraph I wrote. English is like that. “Megalodon” is a species name, while “Megalosaurus” and “Megapiranha” are genera. And Megasaurus is a big truck. They’re all very big, even when their letters aren’t.)