Measuring Megalodon: classroom driven research made possible with 3D technology

TitleMeasuring Megalodon: classroom driven research made possible with 3D technology
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsPerez, Victor J., Grant Claudia, Hendrickson Megan, and Tovani Jason
Conference Name2015 GSA Annual Meeting
Date Published2015
Conference LocationBaltimore, Maryland
Keywordseducation, EF-1115210, GSA2015, poster
AbstractThe Florida Museum of Natural History has been collaborating with iDigBio and Duke University to incorporate 3D printing technology and compelling scientific research into K-12 classrooms. Recently, an associated dentition of Megalodon (Carcharocles megalodon), donated by amateur paleontologist Gordon Hubbell, was scanned and 3D printed for research and education purposes. Associated sets of Megalodon teeth are extremely rare and offer insurmountable information regarding the life history of this captivating creature. A lesson has since been developed, available on, that integrates scientific research concerning body length estimates of Megalodon with 3D printing technology in order to develop an understanding of fundamental concepts in paleontology, geology, and biology. Body length estimates for Megalodon are commonly based off of the anatomy of the living Great White shark (Carcharodon carcharias), most prominent are a set of equations developed by Kenshu Shimada (2003) that estimates body length based off a linear relationship observed between crown height and body length for each tooth position. In this lesson, students are given teeth from the associated set at random and first asked to identify the tooth position of their isolated teeth, allowing them to compose a personal understanding of the tooth morphology. Subsequently, students estimate body length using the equations established by Shimada and their corresponding tooth positions, which requires solving a linear equation and, consequently, incorporates mathematics (i.e., STEM integration). A geometry extension was also developed that exploits the natural triangular shape of the teeth and the inherent dignathic heterodonty exhibited by Megalodon. Tooth dimensions vary, in terms of size and symmetry, between positions; which allows students to explore the geometric properties of triangles. Interestingly, upon testing these equations with the associated dentition, the students found that different tooth positions resulted in vastly different body length estimates. This had never been tested before and is in fact a new discovery to science made possible by a harmonious collaboration between technologic innovation, scientific institutions, researchers, amateur paleontologists, teachers, and students. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs. Vol. 47, No. 7, p.99