Tuesday, March 15th, 2011
I try, as a matter of blogger policy, to find a good picture with every story because I’m always disappointed when I read about something that sounds awesome but there’s no picture of it. Today, however, the picture came first.
I KNOW, RIGHT?! That immense coolness is the largest Megalodon jaw ever assembled. It’s 11 feet wide and 9 feet tall, and it’s for sale.
It was put together by the late Vito Bertucci, a jeweler and amateur scuba diver who became known as “Megalodon Man” for his dedication to hunting fossils of the giant prehistoric shark that dominated the oceans between 2.5 million and 1.5 million years ago. He spent years collecting fossils of Megalodon teeth, studying their proportions and assembling complete toothy Megalodon jaws for venerable institutions like the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the Baltimore Aquarium.
This one is the biggest one he ever made. It took him over 16 years diving the mid-Atlantic coastal plains to collect enough of the largest teeth — they’re much rarer than the smaller ones — to compose this marvel.
Positioned with scrupulous scientific accuracy in a pair of jaws modeled in resin and scaled up from a Great White jaw set, the teeth are accurately arrayed in four rows; each row at a different angle for maximum efficiency in rending the flesh of the great fish’s victims. The jaws contain four teeth that each measure over 7 inches along the diagonal, although this is not immediately obvious because part of the roots are embedded in the jaw.
Megalodon’s skeletal structure was made of cartilage which very rarely fossilizes, so it wasn’t like Bertucci could just find a jawbone, collect an appropriate number and size of teeth then slot them in where they fit. Complete sets of teeth have been found, but none of this dramatic scale. He had to do a lot of research and examination of the teeth to figure out how they would have fit together. It took him a year and a half to piece it together once he had collected all the fossils.
It would be his last masterpiece. He died in October 2004, while diving for fossils in the Ogeechee river south of Savannah, Georgia. His brother, Joey Bertucci, is selling the jaw. The estimated sale price is $700,000.