Fla. Museum opens new shark exhibit June 16 featuring 60-foot-long Megalodon Bring your fossils and "Stump the Smithsonian Paleontologists"

May 31st, 2007

Photos available

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — At 60 feet long, Megalodon was the largest shark that ever lived and a dominant marine predator. Sharks are at risk today, with recent population declines attributed to humans. Though Megalodon vanished 2 million years ago, its fascinating story inspires lessons for science and shark conservation.

The Florida Museum of Natural History tells this remarkable story in its exciting new national traveling exhibition, “Megalodon: Largest Shark that Ever Lived,” which opens June 16. The exhibition features a 60-foot-long walk-through sculpture and highlights the evolution, biology and misconceptions regarding giant prehistoric sharks.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 16, opening activities (*see full schedule below) include an opportunity for visitors to bring in their own fossils to try and “Stump the Smithsonian Paleontologists” while having the fossils identified. Other family fun and discovery includes activities and interaction with area fossil club representatives and Florida Museum researchers as well as gallery walks with other local shark experts, including Mark Renz, author of “Megalodon: Hunting the Hunted.” Renz will give a gallery walk at 11 a.m. followed by a book signing session from 12-4 p.m.

“The Megalodon exhibit gives us the chance to showcase current museum research and our extensive paleontology collections,” said Florida Museum assistant director for exhibits Darcie MacMahon. “Who can imagine a 60-foot shark cruising all the world’s oceans? The evolution and extinction of this giant beast capture our imaginations and inspire us to learn about shark evolution in general and the importance of shark conservation today.”

As unique as Megalodon was, so too is the exhibition that tells the story of this enormous creature. The exhibition showcases both fossil and modern shark specimens as well as full-scale models from several collections. Visitors enter a full-size sculpture of Megalodon through massive jaws and discover this shark’s history and the world it inhabited, including its size, structure, diet, lifespan, relatives, neighbors, evolution and extinction.

“Megalodon: Largest Shark that Ever Lived” also provides details on improving the health of our oceans and survival of threatened species. Recent worldwide declines are attributed to commercial and sport overfishing. Scientists estimate humans kill 100 million sharks, skates and rays each year, and the life history of most shark species makes it difficult for populations to rebound. For those wondering why we need sharks, the Megalodon exhibition asks guests to consider the marine food web domino-effect caused by overfishing. The exhibition also highlights shark medical research that may provide insight into our own well-being.

Another exhibition section describes how this animal continues to fascinate many, elevating Megalodon to near cult status. From biker jackets to postage stamps, the exhibition explains the many ways Megalodon remains a part of human culture through art, literature, music and film.

“Megalodon: Largest Shark that Ever Lived” was produced by the Florida Museum of Natural History with support from the National Science Foundation. The Florida Museum will display the exhibition through Jan. 6, 2008. Admission to this exhibition is free, though museum donations are gladly accepted.

For more information, visit http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/megalodon/ or call (352) 846-2000.

- 30 -

“Megalodon: Largest Shark that Ever Lived” Opening Activities – June 16, 2007

Stump the Smithsonian Paleontologists! (10 a.m. – noon, 1 – 4 p.m.)
Bring your own fossils and try to “stump” Smithsonian Paleontologists Bob Purdy and Dave Bohaska while having your fossils identified.

Shark Tooth Dig and Identification (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.)
Search for, identify and take home your own sharks teeth.

Gallery Walks (11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m.)
Join local shark experts for a tour of our newest exhibit, Megalodon: Largest Shark that Ever Lived.
11 a.m. – “Megalodon: Hunting the Hunter” author Mark Renz – Book signing follows
1 p.m. – Shark researcher Dr. Gordon Hubbell
3 p.m. – Shark researcher Dr. Clifford Jeremiah

Exhibitors (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.)
Meet researchers from the Florida Museum’s Ichthyology, Vertebrate Paleontology and Invertebrate Paleontology departments and area fossil club representatives to learn more about Florida’s fabulous fossil history.

Book Signing (noon – 4 p.m.)
Meet Mark Renz, author of “Megalodon: Hunting the Hunter,” “Fossiling In Florida,” “Megalodon: Hunting the Hunter,” “Megalodon Mystery,” “Giants in the Storm,” and “Doug’s Ark: Thinking Outside The Pile” and take home a signed copy of your own.

Discovery Cart (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.)
Was Megalodon larger than a school bus? How big were its teeth? Stop by our interactive discovery station to test your knowledge of this prehistoric predator of the sea.

Writer: Christine Eschenfelder
Media contact: Paul Ramey, pramey@flmnh.ufl.edu