Discovery’s Megalodon Defense? ‘We Don’t Know,’ Or ‘We Don’t Care’

By Christie Wilcox | August 9, 2013 7:00 am

FIFY, Discovery! From twitter user Alaskanime

Discovery has responded to the hordes of angry fans defending their recent “documentary” Megalodon: The Monster Shark That Lives. The statement, as given to Fox News, came from executive producer of Shark Week Michael Sorensen:

“With a whole week of Shark Week programming ahead of us, we wanted to explore the possibilities of Megalodon. It’s one of the most debated shark discussions of all time, can Megalodon exist today? It’s Ultimate Shark Week fantasy. The stories have been out there for years and with 95% of the ocean unexplored, who really knows?”

“One of the most debated shark discussions of all time”? Really? While I am a marine biologist, my research is on lionfish, not sharks—maybe I’m out of the loop. So, I went to the experts. I asked Carl Meyer, Assistant Researcher at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology and co-head of the Shark Research Team, for his take. Is the extinct status of C. megalodon a “discussion” that he and his colleagues have?

“We all secretly wish Megalodon was still around,” he told me. But no. The only discussion they occasionally have is “why people fall for this stuff.”

“This documentary was the first time I’ve ever even heard it suggested that Megalodon may still exist,” said  Daniel Holstein, a post doc with the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. “There’s about as much scientific controversy about the possibility of Megalodons lurking in today’s oceans as there is about mermaids. None.”

David Kerstetter, an assistant professor at the Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center in Dania Beach, Florida, whose current work includes reducing shark bycatch in fisheries, had a similar response. “There is no discussion among fisheries professionals whether Megalodon is extinct,” he said. “If even one credible scientist had doubts about this, the Discovery Channel wouldn’t have had to use actors.”

“As a researcher focused on mako sharks, I often discuss Megalodon with my colleagues,” explained Dovi Kacev, a PhD candidate at San Diego State University studying the population genetics of shortfin mako and common thresher sharks. “Megalodon is an extinct relative of the mako after all.”

“We sometimes discuss what it would be like if Megalodon still existed—what it would prey upon, where it would live,” he said. But as to its current existence? “Never do any of my colleagues or I ever plausibly argue that Megalodon is still extant.”

But hey, these are all just scientists studying living sharks. I bet the ones that study shark paleontology have a different viewpoint.

John G. Maisey received his PhD in Zoology and Comparative Anatomy from University College London in 1974 and is now the Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History. He studies a wide variety of Chondrichthyes species, living and extinct, using CT scans and some of the most up to date technology we have to examine animal bones. If anyone is going to know the truth about Megalodon, it’s him.

“The fossil record of Megalodon ends in the Pliocene,” he told me conclusively. “Megalodon is hardly a blip on my radar! ”

“It isn’t a subject for serious scientific discussion,” he continued. “There are much more exciting things going on the the world of ancient sharks!” To name a few: Maisey is currently working on the anatomy of the oldest known fossil sharks and shark-like fishes, from the Lower Devonian of South America, Africa and Canada; slightly younger (Lower Carboniferous) shark fossils from the USA, including the largest Paleozoic shark ever discovered; and NSF-funded work on modern sharks, rays and chimaeras, as part of the chondrichthyan “Tree of Life” project.

“I have been studying Megalodon for the last 5 years,” Catalina Pimiento, a PhD student working with the Florida Museum of Natural History and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute explained to me. “The main subject of my dissertation is to understand how, and hopefully why, it became extinct.” Aha! There we go. Surely she must know about the debates that Sorensen speaks of.

“There is not a discussion in our field as to whether Megalodon is extinct. Fossil evidence demonstrate it became extinct around 2 million years ago, that is, before humans first appeared in the fossil record.”

So, it doesn’t matter if you talk to shark scientists that study ecology, fisheries, genetics or paleontology. When asked if there is a debate about Megalodon’s extinction, the answer from scientists is a clear and resounding no.

There’s a reason that they aren’t discussing whether Megalodon is still out there: “There is no evidence that megalodon is extant,” said Pimiento.  “Any statement that suggest this species is extant is science fiction.”

“No convincing evidence exists to suggest that Megalodon is still extant,” added Kacev.

C’mon, guys. Are you all sure there’s no evidence it’s still around? Discovery had to have started somewhere, right? Isn’t there a little bit? Something?

“Sadly,” said Meyer, “none whatsoever.”

“No,” confirmed Maisey.

“None that I am aware of,” said Holstein.

“None.  Nada.  Zilch,” added Kerstetter. And he explained why: Megalodons were large, endothermic animals, which means they cannot regulate their temperatures in the same way you and I can. Simply feeding a body of that size would mean they had “a tremendous caloric demand,” but the energy requirement would be even higher if these large sharks were living in that ‘95% of the ocean’ that we haven’t explored because those places are deep and really, really cold. “If Megalodon were extant, it would either be living in surface waters (where it would have been seen/caught/killed by SOMEONE) or in deeper mesopelagic/bathypelagic/abyssopelagic waters (with insufficient prey biomass and cooler temperatures).”

To put it simply: there isn’t enough to eat where they wouldn’t be seen, and there’s just no way we wouldn’t have seen them if they lived where there is enough food for them to survive.

Holstein added another reason there’s no chance that Megalodons are still around. “There is evidence that Megalodon pupped, or gave birth, in shallow coastal areas,” he said. “So if these massive sharks were still around, they would be obvious.”

“No scientist I’ve ever met thinks there are extant Megalodons roaming the oceans,” Kerstetter affirmed.

Sorensen’s defense of the “documentary” simply doesn’t hold water. There is no debate. There is no evidence. No shark scientist in the world thinks that there is any truth to the idea that Megalodon is still alive. Either Sorensen is continuing to lie to Discovery viewers, or he really is that out of touch with the science he’s in charge of producing. I’m not sure which is worse.

Even still, network spokesperson Laurie Goldberg says the channel stands by what they did. “We have found that people are open to exploring different ideas and concepts in addition to the more traditional fare that we air,” Goldberg said. “That would explain the ratings. As in any entertainment, you aren’t going to always please everyone, but we stand behind all of our content and are proud of it.”

According to her, the special “used a novel storytelling device to engage that imagination and curiosity in a way that was disclosed to audiences throughout the program.”

Really? It was “disclosed to audiences throughout the program”? Funny, because all I remember was a too-fast-to-read disclaimer at the end that said:

None of the institutions or agencies that appear in the film are affiliated with it in any way, nor have approved its contents.

Though certain events and characters in this film have been dramatized, sightings of “Submarine” continue to this day. Megalodon was a real shark.

Legends of giant sharks persist all over the world. There is still a debate about what they may be.

First off, I don’t think the word “novel” means what you think it means, Goldberg. The documentary was a work of fiction. There’s nothing new or unique about a network creating a visually entertaining fictional story—that’s exactly what every other channel on TV does every day.

As for the rest of your statement, the disclaimer doesn’t in any way disclose what happened. Saying agencies haven’t approved its contents doesn’t mean what you presented didn’t happen. “Certain events” doesn’t disclose what in the supposed documentary is real and what is fake. But more importantly, Discovery chose to use the word “dramatized” instead of “fictional”, the one they used in the disclaimers for their Mermaids mocumentaries. “Dramatized” simply means acted out—it doesn’t tell you whether the original story is real or fake. The movie Lincoln dramatized the life of a president. While we clearly don’t have a complete record of his every conversation, we know that many of the events depicted in it were true, and we can somewhat trust that those that were scripted for the movie are in line with historical events. Many of the shark attacks shown on Shark Week are dramatizations of real events. So simply saying “dramatized” doesn’t count as disclosure of forgery.

People are open to a wide diversity of ideas and concepts, and even new ways of presenting them. They just want to know whether those ideas are completely made up or based in fact if it’s going to be coming from a non-fiction network. All Discovery had to do was put “What if Megalodon was still alive?” in big letters on the screen to open the “documentary”. Then all of their viewers would have been aware of the ruse, and we would have been happy to play along in the fictional world they were creating, like we did for the National Geographic’s Aftermath: Population Zero. Airing the entire documentary deadpan and pretending the evidence was real isn’t ‘exploring’—it’s lying.

Sobering statistics

It’s very telling that the last three sentences of the disclaimer echo Sorensen’s (inaccurate) statement regarding the supposed debate. It hardly counts as a disclaimer when you basically add on ‘No, really, guys! There are lots of people seeing these things! They might still exist!’

Of course Discovery didn’t disclose to their viewers that it was a work of fiction throughout the program. If they had, it would have been clear that the evidence presented was fake. And if that was so abundantly clear, how did they manage to convince over 70% of their audience that Megalodon still lives? Even with their now-modified poll, almost a third are completely convinced, and an additional 47% think it’s possible Megalodon is still out there.

Kacev stated the issue perfectly: “I think Discovery has every right to make fictional programming,” he said,  “but they should really be forthright in letting their viewers know that a “documentary” is not real.”


There was nothing forthright about the way Discovery presented the so-called documentary. There was nothing forthright about their so-called disclaimers. There was nothing forthright about their response to viewer disapproval. And even now, despite thousands upon thousands of angry viewer comments, the network still has yet to own up to what they actually did. Not once have they admitted that they faked footage, scientists and events to create their work of fiction.

Considering it drew in a record 4.8 million viewers, Discovery probably couldn’t care less about the thousands that are angry. That’s what Goldberg implied when she casually disregarded the people who didn’t appreciate the special by saying “you aren’t going to always please everyone.” Here’s what they should care about, though: by passing off this mockumentary as science, they’ve tarnished their reputation in a way they never have before. Sure, not all of their programming is super-awesome, but at least when they have reality shows like Naked and Afraid, they’re portraying actual people. With Megalodon, they’ve made themselves into peddlers of pseudoscience, willing to misrepresent reality for the sake of a story. And guess what? That makes scientists very, very nervous.

To produce the high-quality, educational, scientific content they’re known for, Discovery Channel needs to have a good rapport with the scientists they want to feature. Once you lose those scientists’ trust, you lose your ability to make that kind of programming.

Many scientists are wary enough of the media, as often their work is twisted or misconstrued. Megalodon wasn’t the only blow to Discovery’s reputation this week. The special Great White Serial Killers was a misrepresentation of Neil Hammerschlag’s excellent paper “Hunting patterns and geographic profiling of white shark predation” (PDF). And throughout the week’s programming there were mistakes of all kinds. As shark scientist David Shiffman put it on twitter, “Approximately every sentence not spoken by Greg Skomal had at least one factual error.”

Just like reality shows rely on people being willing to make fools of themselves on TV, educational programs rely on scientists and other professionals opening their doors to production crews and showing the world what they do. If you get a reputation for performing stunts for attention or being loose with facts, those people aren’t going to want anything to do with you. What Shark Week has become certainly makes me wary of ever working with Discovery Communications, reservations that I don’t have for their competitors like National Geographic. And if they’re so happy to sell out their programming, what about their educational materials? Or their outreach? Exactly how much science is Discovery Communications willing to sacrifice to cash in?

Loss of integrity does not go unnoticed in science media circles—just look at what happened to SEED after Pepsigate. Tell me, Discovery: do you really think that scientists are going to be as eager to agree to interviews or filming when it’s possible you’ll make a Megalodon or a Serial Killer out of their work? Of course not. They’re going to be wary because their reputation is on the line. They’re going to wonder what your angle is. They’re going to question how much you are willing to fake to get the program you want. Because if you’re willing to compromise your integrity once or twice to get higher ratings, whose to say you won’t do it again, and again, and again? By making this “documentary” and standing behind it, you’ve put blood in the water, and every professional that you rely on to be in and promote your products can smell it.

Discovery might be defending their choices, but I’m not buying it. By making Megalodon the way they did and using it to kick off Shark Week, they traded integrity for publicity. That’s fine if you don’t really care about being “the world’s #1 non-fiction media company” or “producing high-quality content,” but don’t sit there and pretend that you’ve stuck to your mission. Don’t tell us you were transparent and open, or that you were just covering a scientific debate when none exists. Because the truth is out there, and everyone knows you’re just lying through your phony, unfossilized Megalodon teeth.

John Oliver is right: Discovery owes its viewers a Megalopology.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: More Science, select, Top Posts
  • Buddy199

    You do realize that you’re just fueling Discovery’s PR campaign and in the end helping draw more eyeballs to the show. Happy sponsors asking for more blockbuster programming.

    • saulofhearts

      So instead of writing well-thought articles and debating the implications of TV shows, we should just … not bother? We should just ignore things we disagree with because we don’t want to draw attention to them?

      • Buddy199

        No. But after pointing how ridiculous the show was in one article the point was made. Now it just gives more publicity to encourage more bad behavior. Completely ignoring it from here on out is the last thing Discovery wants, and the best way to discourage this nonsense.

  • Addison

    Oh for Christ’s sake: it’s a TV show not a university lecture. Discovery Channel is a business – a cable business that depends on viewership for $$$ – that come in the form of advertising. More viewers means more $$$s. Discovery could care less about attracting a seal of approval from accredited scientists; their target is the viewer who knows nothing about science nor cares anything about science, but who is in search of something entertaining and engaging. At the very least, Discovery has started many conversations about sharks as the result of the “Megalodon” special – and obviously you fell for the ruse by devoting a whole column to it.

    • Harry Rosenberg

      I have to worry about our society when fiction trumps facts for the sake of a buck. The world needs better.

    • Buddy199

      Stephen Spielberg, that bastard…no island with real dinosaurs. And that goddam Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer special, son if a bitch!

    • BradMueller

      You’d be surprised at the people who think stuff like this is real.

  • mem_somerville

    Sorry, I couldn’t stop watching the subtitles. “Get out of the vodka!” was my favorite (2:23). “Busy calling their fleems” was also good (2:18).

    But oh–yeah, missed the whole thing. I don’t have cable. There’s another solution.

  • BradMueller

    Megalodon.. The crop circle of the seas.

    • alisha652

      like April said I’m startled that some one able to get paid $4675 in 4 weeks on the computer. did you see this webpage w­w­w.K­E­P­2.c­o­m

  • Virginia Smith

    Dream program: Fakebusters: scientists & journalists pool their truthiness resources for program a la Mythbusters + skeptics run expose’s on stuff like this. And there’s a lot of stuff out there. Could also show how the real stuff is filmed, those wild animal shoots in burrows, underwater, etc. How about it, Nat-Geo?

  • Todd David

    I feel like Discovery stole 2 hours of my time from this fictional POS. Fully lost my trust. Won’t happen again—> removed Discovery from my cable guide menu. Now if I watch Naked & Afraid it’ll be online and unattached from Discovery Channel itself. Go f*** yourself Discovery.

  • Kathy

    I think the show was really interesting and there have been some sightings of a huge shark that they even showed that could have been 30-50 feet in length or bigger. Also, what about that boat sinking and the footage from Brazil of the rescue, that shark was huge, so what is that fiction too , I don’t think so. Even if the shark might not have been a “megladon” it was still a huge shark well over the size of a very large great white , so just because scientists don’t think it exists , doesn’t mean that a huge shark like that can’t exist. The show was great it also brought awareness to climate change as well.

    • Santa Claus

      Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. No, Kathy, it’s ALL fake. They used this newfangled thing called computer graphics to create the “footage”.

    • DinoTroves

      Kathy, scientists are not saying that a huge shark like that can´t exist. They’re just saying it doesn´t exist anymore. All “footage” from the show was faked; there’s absolutely no evidence of Megalodon being alive today.

      • vinoth

        we know very much less than seas than outer space…. so it may be ture there s a chance

        • Lobur12n12

          That’s idiotic. We’ve explored way more of the oceans than we have of the universe. It was a real cute thing to say though, and probably made you feel intelligent

  • Christian

    I agree with the article. Discovery Channel tarnished their reputation. Now it’s doubtful if every show they’ll have presents fact or fiction. If I wanted to watch fiction, there are way better channels and shows. Screw the whole shark week. I’m switching the channel.

  • Caleb Longo

    I think kathy is onto somthing! Based on the fact it is not megalodon, and beside the point the documentary was a fraud(although entertaining). It definitely made me curious. I may not be a scientist but I am a realist, and I love it when people say based on the facts. so lets do a little math, 95% of the ocean is still left unexplored according to the NOAA(Nation Ocean And Atmospheric Administration). Witch means the “Based on the FACTS” antics is based on the 5% of the ocean we have explored…5%! Because Why? We are still technologically too young of a Species to explore most of our own ocean. The deepest a U.S. NAVY submarine can submerge is “Deeper than 800ft.” but still undisclosed how deep? The deepest canyon is 3,600 Meters or approximately 11,800ft. I also learned based off of documentaries i have watched, how ever credible that is, that every time they submerge under 400ft. it is likely that they will discover a new species. So while liberal scientist love to throw facts in our faces. I..dont think that it is unlikely at all that there can be a shark as big as megalodon as well as many other horrifying creatures lurking around at those depths. Just look at the GIANT SQUID! that is undeniably REAL!

    • DinoTroves

      Its very different. Giant squid has been KNOWN to exist since Antiquity; ancient Greek already spoke about it, and the Norse had stories inspired by it. Countless dead giant squid appeared in the world’s shores since forever. The only reason the giant squid was only recently filmed and photographed alive is that it lives in the deep sea, and can´t survive in superficial waters for long.

      On the other hand, Megalodon, when it was alive, lived in superficial waters, because it hunted whales and whales live near the surface. If Megalodon was still alive, it would be constantly seen, filmed and photographed from the surface, and dead Megalodons would show up in our shores at least as frequently as say, whale sharks or basking sharks.

      The fact that no such evidence exists, AND that Megalodon seemingly dissappears from the fossil record in the Pliocene should be enough evidence that the creature no longer exists, even if all of us prehistoric life enthusiasts would LOVE to see one alive.

      • Chugs Rodiguez

        During the Pleistocene there was a period of time when the earth went from being warm and into a ice age this accounts for why the earth lost most of its mega fauna.

        However there was more then enough time for a large hungry fish, deprived of its surface feed stock to be pushed into the ocean depths looking for food which despite the scientist claiming otherwise contains more then enough biomass to support significant populations of giant squid that roams the ocean’s depths..

        Once at those depths it certainly would have changed/adapted itself. Maybe it went blind and more then like found that a) there was a lot of food around (well enough) and b) no reason to go back to the surface. Also its not like there aren’t actually other sharks that live at great depths, like hexanchus.

        I would argue that its certainly a rare animal, if it exists, with only a few select habitats that are warm enough. Maybe near volcanic vents.

        So the main arguments against; lack of evidence. ie the body. Well its clear that deep sea sharks hunt for the animals expressly for oil that maintains their buoyancy.

        Clearly any shark that dies would be quickly consumed by its fellow shark or by others. Entire species live in the ocean on the biomass of dead whales. Surely the same happens with other deep sea sharks. This sort of targeting of the animals liver would have ensured that that its highly unlikely a shark would float to the surface and onto a beach.

        Secondly there are large quantities of uninhabited coast line out there. Consider how many times a giant squid has washed up onto a beach (you can count it on a single hand).

        Also you’d ask why hasn’t any actually caught one? Well considering it weighs 50 metric tons I can’t see many deep sea trawls capable of capturing one. Hell we have hard enough time killing and dragging 50 ton whales on the surface onto a ship. Imagine a 16ft shark weighing 50 ton and with the ability to swim at significant speeds finding it self in a net.

        Besides deep sea trawlers go no deeper then 800m (and that’s rare). bathypelagic and abyssopelagic regions contain a large amount of biomass and aren’t trawled whatsoever by man.

        I’m not saying that this shark 100% definitely exists but the claims by the scientists that there is no grounds for an animal of that size to go unchecked is clearly wrong.

        Especially the biomass thing. Hell the scientist have really no data on megalodon. They don’t know exactly what it ate or what depths it went to. The thing could have a trunk like nose for all we know.

      • Terry K

        They disappeared because none have died recently. The earth is only 6000 years old. There are no missing links. Carbon dating becomes inaccurate at 5730 years. Also, evolutionists wont tell you that they have found hundreds of fossils whose descendants live today…..and no signs of evolution. And these fossils are different animals in widely far and different locales globally.

        • Joe Hill

          It’s sad when you can’t tell sarcasm from sincerity. However, if this is sincere, it represents the biggest failing of our educational system on record. Wow. This is why religion needs to be eradicated; it produces hordes of gullible morons. If, however, it’s sarcasm…well played.

    • Terry K

      Actually, Marianas Trench is the deepest known location of our oceans. Deepest KNOWN at 7 miles deep.

    • Joseph Charles

      Of course you don’t think it’s unlikely. You’re embarrassingly ignorant on the subject.

  • moscoa

    A tawdry sham for sure. But given the degree to which “science” is now freely corrupted and hijacked for political, eco-religious and marketing ends, entertainment about mermaids and bigfoot and megalogon just seems a logical extension. We’ve got far more purpose driven junk science about everything from organic foods to hormones, joint replacements, climate change and social policy, and on and on. I’m a little surprised they didn’t work the Gaia-is-angry theme a bit more.

  • Caleb Longo

    okay bad example with the giant squid but you get the point. Its another deep sea creature we have know existed in this case but could not get photo evidence due to the nature of its habitat as a “DEEP SEA Creature.” I would love to see more recent Fossils of megalodon as well.
    Just to play Devils advocate, although the most recent fossils of megalodon are over 2 million years old, how do we know that there aren’t more recent fossils at the depths that we cannot reach? my argument isn’t weather megalodon is extinct or extant its with the scientist throwing facts in our face based on exploring only 5% of the worlds ocean. For instants, If i were to tell you that TELETUBBIES lived at the bottom of the ocean and there natural living habitat was at the depths of 11,600ft. as ridiculous as it sounds, you cannot tell me they don’t simply because you cannot prove to me that they do not. so weather megalodon is real or not, again playing devils advocate if i were to tell you that there were more recent fossils of megalodon at those depths how would you prove to me…to us, that there is not?

    • Eilin

      The lack of evidence of an object’s non-existence (e.g. of Megalodons or deep-sea Teletubbies) is not evidence of its existence. Note that we can only approach proving negative existential claims by examining every single possibility/location of existence, e.g. in this case, the entire deep-sea. This is impossible with current technology limitations. Unfalsifiable claims are not under the purview of science; it is, instead, speculation.

      The lack of evidence for Megalodon fossils more recent than 2mya is, as you say, not definite evidence that there are no fossils more recent than those found. On the other hand, we may not have discovered more recent fossils because there are none. We cannot know which instance this non-existence of the said fossils indicates, so your point here is speculative as well.

      Instead, the scientists quoted in the article have pointed out why existence of extant Megalodons are highly unlikely: deep-sea living is unimaginable for such creatures due to their size, endothermic natures and caloric restrictions, and they birthed their young in shallow waters – yet no one has spotted such a creature.

      So unless you can explain away the continued elusiveness of Megalodons, and/or provide reasons why no more recent Megalodon fossils have been discovered, asking others to “prove” the non-existence of Megalodons or deep-sea Teletubbies to you seems to be a willful refusal to acknowledge the facts on hand.

      • JoshGrot

        Very well put, and a pithy encapsulation of the scientific method.

      • Paul Andrulis

        Neither is lack of evidence for its existence. A lack of relevant data proves nothing at all. I find it a shame that scientists often resort to such logical sophistry as what you proposed. It is indeed the classical line, but it is a line of logical hogwash.

    • Terry K

      Millions of years? Show me the missing links. The bodies. Fossils would be EVERYWHERE. We have not been here millions to trillions. Carbon dating goes ridiculous after 5730 years.

    • jacemelessa

      The science world doesn’t know jack.. Its all guesses with supporting and non supporting hypothesis. “Scientific fact” is about as stable as the psych ward in our hospitals. It literally changes everyday. So for anyone to come out and say we know that it doesn’t exist is completely ignorant

  • jj

    As I watched the show, I wondered if it was true. I was entertained. I once believed that Discovery ran documentaries. I had to google this article to find out how blatant the fiction was. During the show, there were no indications it was a fiction…well except for the fake footage that was clearly photo-shoped,.. and the fact that no fishery would allow anyone to drop some 60 thousand gallons of chum into a habitat. Also, how quickly was that fake whale made? and.. and .. and…I find myself laughing now. Give me more “Jungle gold.” There is no way that show is real either…Discovery is the new Disney Channel for geeks. I think they will make more money than when they dealt in “truth.”

  • lowell1

    sadly, they probably would have gotten equally good ratings with a episode on extinct sharks, just as episodes on dinosaurs get excellent ratings. There was no need for faking something.

  • Mr. Go To Guy

    Shame that they tried to pull something like this. I’m disappointed to say the least.

  • MattAllen

    Next year for Shark Week they’ll air Sharknado as “Based on a true story”.

  • Lark

    I found Megalodon to be a wonderful show. A wonderful show of fiction, but a wonderful show nonetheless. I agree that the discloser should have been a lot more specific, the show was “fictionalized” not “dramatized”, the Megalodon IS extinct, and everybody on the show were actors.

    Outside of that, I liked the show. It stopped and made me think. It made me want to Google all the facts that showed up in the bottom corner to see if they were actually real or not, to see if I could find pictures or articles to support the dates they were tossing out, and to look up all of the people being interviewed to read their credentials.

    I think we trust documentaries a little too blindly. How often do we double check facts? Or get second opinions? Everybody knows that there are people out there bending science for political and monetary reasons, we should be aware.

    I do have to admit that the major reason I kept watching the show was because of the hilarious twitter feed. All of you guys and your witty comments. 😉

    I thought it was really obvious very early that it was a mockumentary.
    1. Everything happened WAY too fast. An expedition of that size would have taken months, if not years, to put together.
    2. Everybody was too beautiful, too young, and spoke too clear english. Actors.
    3. The sonar was a rectangular, scrolling, THERMAL image.
    4. Horribly and tackily done photoshopped images.
    5. German military U boat pictures. Seriously? Most of that was only JUST declassified.
    6. Chum. ‘Nuff said.

    I’m sure there were a couple of other things too, but I can’t remember them all and I didn’t see the entire thing.

    • Lark

      Although I will say that I won’t be watching my documentaries from Discovery anymore. I’m a PBS fan through and through.

      • zombiegreen

        Okay, but you know _Downton Abbey_ is fictional, right? Because I have seriously had that conversation with an American before.

    • CarloD

      About point 5: those German U-Boot pictures were not new, they are around on the Net since some time (I had already seen them before I had seen Discovery Channel’s program).

  • Travis Kibel

    The footage is all fake, big deal, so is everything else shown on supposedly reality T.V.. If this outrages you bad enough to write an article about it than you need to get a life. To say that this shark could not exist would be ignorant though because there have been many species thought to be extinct that were later found to be in existence, scientists are not always right as much as they want you to believe they are. By the way, how many of the one’s who have been wrong about an extinct species, have been exposed by you through an article?

    • Joseph Charles

      Until evidence of an animal, like the coelacanth (which was known only from the fossil record), actually appears, science is justified in concluding from the fossil record that a species is extinct.

      Animals first known only from fossils before a living specimen is found, like the coelacanth, are in fact extremely rare and aren’t a good reason to state that megalodon is therefore likely to still exist. There are also other lines of evidence which converge that support the conclusion that megalodon is extinct.

    • Joseph Charles

      There is a difference between scientists expanding or rejecting previous conclusions and a fiction like this “documentary.”

      In fact, you can see how the sciences adapt to newly discovered species or species that are closely related and morphologically similar to extinct species. When these rare animals show up, scientists and researchers are ecstatic and begin to revise what they thought they knew about such animals and how it fits with broader structures and mechanisms of evolution.

      If strong evidence, evidence beyond reasonable doubt, was ever discovered about a living population of C megalodon, scientists would gladly revise their previous conclusions. You are actually arguing for the nonexistence of evidence in C megalodon’s case. Science changes often, sometimes in dramatic ways, and if and when this megatooth shark appears, scientists will be the first to enthusiastically study such an animal. It would be international news and would begin a revision in many scientific fields. It will offer new puzzles for scientists and perhaps an opaque window to the past.

      Scientists are not always right, true, but to use that to reject the well-supported hypothesis that C megalodon is extinct is not terribly reasonable. Also, you might ask yourself what the state of science and knowledge was at the time when the determination of extinction of other taxa was made or not. Extinction may have been the best explanation at the time with the data they had. When new information appears, they are happy to reevaluate and revise. That’s a strength, not a weakness.

      Everyone uses that argument: science can come to the wrong conclusions. Of course it can, and has been, and probably is now in a variety of ways. But, again, this is a strength, this systematically diminishing of our ignorance.

  • xyz234

    Good grief people, with all the fabricated “news” presented by the major networks, you’re getting upset over a fake nature documentary? I hope it teaches you all a lesson about gullibility…now go and apply it to everything else you watch!

  • JoshGrot

    I can now see how myths, legends, and some religious beliefs get started and then spread: a person or institution with significant trustworthiness in a particular area puts forth a lie or some sort of fiction (either inadvertently or with pretense); then even if (and after) the lie is recanted, the myth, legend, etc. grows as trusting followers (like me, my wife and my kids) are exposed to it at a later date due to its viral growth (in this case vs. video on demand on Cable). (BTW — if they aren’t going to pull the show from their VOD systems, It would be nice if the Cable Company (in my case, Comcast) would at least note on their system that the show was not truthful.)

    I wonder how many kids will be talking to their classmates and teachers about the existence of Megalodon for the next few years, as each new cohort of families and kids come across the video, or just the meme from people too lazy to investigate its veracity on Google?

    It’s hard to put these genies back into their bottles, and it does real harm to the science community, educators, the truly curious, not to mention Discovery, which has lost the trust of 10’s of thousands.

    • The Professor

      I realize few people are monitoring comments at this juncture, but I still thought I’d reply given that I came out into the cyberworld to research this mega malarkey and create a list of reputable resources for my students, as right before the holiday break I got asked to settle a 4th grade argument about this mess. Indeed, teachers are getting pestered over a year out from the Discovery mock/docudrama. The worst part is that schools in Florida regularly address shark matters formally in our classrooms, for many obvious reasons, so our students will get the straight story somewhere, even if it’s through the boredom that quickly ensues when they can’t spot one and become the next meg sighter. I can only imagin the damage to kids in Kansas….

  • Richard Freeman

    Great post. I agree 100% but don’t you think an advertisement for Super Slam Hunting on a science site is a bit ‘iffy’ to say the least?

  • Zack Miller

    Okay so we have scientist religiously studying extraterrestrial life “Aliens”, but it’s to far fetched to study the possibility of a living megaladon?! Wow, it just shows the ignorance people truly have and enjoy showing just to try and seem intelligent. Adding to this point of defense is the simple fact that over a million different people worship and believe in different types of Gods that none of us have seen or have as it’s called “hard proof” of. We also have scientist attempting to clone prehistoric dinosaurs/mammoths like a living Jurassic Park!? This negative assault towards this documentary is completely ridiculous because there is plenty of food for a Megaladon to consume because it eats whatever whenever, “plenty of whales, giant squids, and smaller sharks out there..?” My final defense towards this situations is this, we can’t feel or see air, but we know it’s there because its what we breath to live.
    Wether your fix is God, aliens, clones, or the Big Bang theory the end of the day fact is we all have those far fetched beliefs of greater things. They say there is no reassuring evidence leading to proof of a living Megaladon, but without any type of proof at all that means there is also none existing to say that there are none living out there as well. The reality of simple reasoning sure can be a swift kick to the face can’t it?

    • Terry K

      God is eternal and He shakes His head at people ignoring the obvious. But God is not to blame for people’s stupiditu or for dishonest broadcasting.

    • Alex Mercer Azzica

      Funny that God doesn’t have to be proven in order to get a verbal beat down by people who believe. EVERYTHING else does.

    • Wyo1234 l

      You need to research your topic more before you can even make this statement. If the Megalodon is still alive it would have been spotted already. Giant Squids live pretty damn deep in the ocean meaning their living environment is pretty cold and last I check Megalodons don’t do too well in cold waters and their nursery sites were located in warm waters. Don’t try to compare aliens to Megalodons please. We know nothing of “Alien” life but we do know what type of water Megalodons prefer, what type of water they nurse in, and how much they need to eat. This makes it far more easier to narrow down the possibility of a living Megalodon than it is for Alien life since with Megalodovs we’re not going in completely blind. Furthermore yes you can FEEL air, wave your hand around, feel that coolness hitting your hand? Its air. If you still can’t accept it look at fans. What do they do? They blow cool air at you which you can clearly feel hitting your body.

      • DaBoss64 Gaming

        Hang on now. There is research going on that our planet may have a large body of water, several times bigger than the known oceans, far beneath the surface. What’s to say that if it does exist it isn’t connected to some deep trench somewhere? And if so, maybe megalodon could have survived in there! Besides, less than 5% of the ocean has been explored. It is highly unlikely that megalodon is still around, but not to be ruled out entirely. This is definitely a fact that should be considered at the very least. I must say that Discovery has put some absolute crap in their “documentary” though.

    • Joseph Charles

      Zack, not only are you ignorant, you’re ignorant of your ignorance. Dangerous. As blind as you are, then, it’s no surprise that you see gods, Jurassic Park, aliens and the big bang as a kind of religious or personal belief.

      You couldn’t reason yourself out of a paper bag.

  • Paul Andrulis

    I am going to play the advocate here. :) Going to ruffle some proverbial feathers, so to speak.

    This article is as ingenuous as the discovery show. Much of the truth behind what is said, is in how it is said as much as what is said. I will translate.

    If you ask a scientist a question, and receive an answer such as “I do not know any scientists who believes…” means that they do not accept anybody stating they do believe as a scientist, irrespective of their qualifications. It also can stand for the fact that they are only talking of scientists they personally know, which is highly limited.

    If they respond “There is no acceptable (substantial, believable, etc.) evidence to prove…” means that they refuse to accept any evidence presented. Evidence of anything they >>believe<< to be impossible is discounted, or even ignored, because it can't be evidence, as they know it is impossible.

    It is called circular logic, for those unfamiliar with the principles of logical thought. Evidence is claimed but I don't believe it. I am an expert, therefore it cannot be true, so what has been provided can't be evidence of it.

    Is megalodon real? Yes.

    It is alive today? I have my doubts.

    Is it possible? I don't know. Ask the scientists. Remember that just a few decades back they swore architeuthis (giant squid) was a sailor's fairy tale, and that no credible scientist believed it was real. They also swore that other supposedly ancient species were long extinct, which they now know aren't. The list goes on and on.

    Scientists suffer from ego just as much as anyone else. They are human.

    I still laugh about architeuthis. One of the arguments against it being alive was that there was not enough food in the depths to sustain such a massive creature. rofl Sound familiar?

    Could Megalodon still be alive? Possibly. Who knows?

    Unlike a scientist, I can't tell you. I haven't enough data, nor have I personally examined the evidence for the claim in order to formulate a logically based answer to the question.

    Maybe some scientists should memorize that phrase instead of making extravagant claims, like the one who wrote the post above.

    • Joseph Charles

      You know what changed in those cases you mention? Evidence. When evidence for the megalodon surfaces, if it surfaces, then the science will change. Until then, its existence is purely speculative and extinction is the best conclusion that can be reached. You can’t use the limits and fallibility of our knowledge as a means to know more than we do. Yes, our knowledge is limited and fallible—and speculation is far worse.

    • Joseph Charles

      Every argument you made is bad.

      Scientists don’t usually talk about it being impossible for the megalodon to still exist, only that there is strong evidence to concluded that it doesn’t.

      When scientists say they do not know of any scientists who believes something, usually what they mean is the consensus of scientists over the publicly available evidence. The consensus is found in the scientific literature, not how many scientists any given scientist personally knows. A non-scientist can find the consensus themselves if they care to look.

      Finally, what scientists do look for is the evidence that would be found should some hypothesis be true. The hypothesis must make predictions that can be tested or confirmed (or not). It does not mean they refuse to accept evidence presented, but whether the presented evidence is predicted by the hypothesis or not. None of the evidence presented—mostly hearsay and some eyewitness testimony (which is always dubious)—is actually evidence of extant megalodons.

      You don’t do the devil much service with these terrible arguments.

  • César Nabeiro

    Today this fake documentary aired in Portugal and I started watching it with alot of interest. I only realised something was wrong when the “brasilian” guy started talking. I am portuguese so I know could tell by the guys accent that he was not brasilian. Thats when I went online and discovered that the show was a fake! I was completly revolted, but it got worst!!! I read that in the end of the “documentary” there is a disclaimer that insinuates the show is a work of fiction (from what i’ve read is not a very clear disclamer), but in the portuguese airing of the show this disclaimer was cut of!! So baisicaly what they did was air A BIG FAT LIE in a chanel that suposably tells the truth and they didn’t even warn people that it was a lie!!! Last week they did the dame thing with the “documentary” about mermaids! WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THESE PEOPLE!!!!

  • jimmy

    i saw this documentary on discovery and i would lie if i said it wasnt cool if it still alive , but many things in this documentary didnt looked real somehow…like the pictures looked fake….but one thing that bathered me was when the girl shoot of this harpune and all of them thought she hit the beast, and when they got the signal and just saw it sinking whith very high speed , but still noone of them thinking hmm maybe she missed…..maybe she missed the shot and thats why it sinking that fast

  • Luke Tiger Riley

    This article fits perfectly into a debate that i had with a group on FB no more than a few days ago.
    These articles truly do anger me with such a blatant arrogance coming from so called ‘professionals’ and ‘scientists’..

    I myself am a complete enthusiast when it comes to nature, past, present and undiscovered!

    The debate in question came about simply when I asked who in this world has any right to make the call that a creature (our topic also being Megalodon coincidentally) ‘is or ‘is not’ extinct, or simply never has existed? (Recognized by science as ‘fact’)

    The term ‘recognized by science’ is hypocritical in it’s own right, someone a thousand mile’s away that you have never met tells you that something is ‘fact’ and you believe it to be, simply because they have a framed piece of paper on their wall.
    To be ‘recognized by science’ apparently takes hard evidence consisting of documented proof, whether it be photographic, video based, or just simply years of research and written documentation. But even then in many instances photo and video will be discredited or claimed to be doctored by so called specialist and professionals, no matter how many times these pieces of evidence are placed in their laps.. (case in point, the hundreds of ‘thousands’ of Bigfoot sighting’s, photo’s, video’s, casting’s and vocal recording’s submitted over not just a few years, but ‘DECADE’S!’)

    On the topic of research, I personally feel the amount of money wasted over the years on so called ‘studies’ that to be honest we have no proof ever even took place (given that we were not there!) is ridiculous, I also find it unpalatable that such studies as how many times a baby blinks a minute, or how drinking too much wine is bad for you, no wait, good for you, i mean bad i mean.. (the outcome of this particular study changes every year if you hadn’t noticed, note my sarcasm!) is mind blowingly revolutionary, important and worth my hard earned taxes, but the exploration of our own planets unknown heights and depths are not!?
    There is one element of the article above that does prove scientific arrogance, not anywhere in the article can I find the words, ‘In my opinion’.. which to be quite frank is just what these people’s comments are, opinions/presumptions! They have no more proof that Megalodon does not exist, any more than I can prove it that does until one washes up on shore or is filmed in the ocean, but it is ‘my opinion’ that with 95% of the ocean unexplored yes, it is possible, and if a scientist can make such a bold claim as, ‘the cure for cancer ‘IS’ out there, we just haven’t found it yet!’ with absolutely no proof that it does exists, these people should not be so closed minded and ready to say something is extinct when they probably don’t even know the names of everything that lives in their own back garden’s.
    In conclusion..

    Until just a few years ago it was not even know that there is a rat the size of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, new species of dolphin, and even the now proven existence of ‘the giant squid’, but these creatures do exist, and not just hundreds of new species are found every decade but thousands, often including many species that some ‘wildlife professional’ or ‘scientist’ wrote off as being extinct, so we should ‘all’ including these people always keep an open mind and not be so quick to make such statements as ‘No, it does not exist!’.. Instead we should try searching at least another 45% of the ocean and then re-think about what may or may not be alive on our planet.
    (This includes the possibility of the Aquatic Ape!)

    Thanks for reading.

    • Joseph Charles

      Say it all you want, but there is strong evidence to conclude megalodon is extinct. You’re simply refusing to listen.

  • Robert Tucker

    It was the last Shark Week program our family has, or will ever, watch(ed).

  • Dinoslay .

    This is what happens when reckless people gain influence in the media industry. Make no mistake, counter-intuitive fraud is a form of moronic supply designed to generate more moronic demand. It is not real education. What makes it creepy is that it is by no means limited to monetary gain;

    To the ordinary watchers of Discovery and it’s kin: Beware of what this phenomenon can do to you! Nuff said.

  • discgolfdave

    Hey man, I bet like the real story is man like aliens came down and had this embryo from and extinct megalodon you know, and they like cloned it and stuff and then spread them into oceans and like man you know we are going to start seeing more and more of them in the future.

  • Jason B.

    This is revolting. I went searching for information about Megaladon today and the first results were for a series of video clips from a documentary on the Discovery website claiming that the shark wasn’t extinct. I watched half a dozen of them and something about the tone just didn’t feel right. It reminded me of “found footage” films like Cloverfield or Trollhunter.
    But, there was nothing on the website itself to indicate this was a work of fiction and I had always considered Discovery to be a reputable source. It wasn’t until I started digging deeper and found this article that I could confirm my initial unease was well founded. I will never trust Discovery as a source for scientific educational information ever again.

  • Jakub Sori Soroka

    Well written. I was always teling to my kids “why you watching rubbish on CN and not enjoying inteligence entertainment on discovery channel?! ” now i will have to question every program from discovery, because i just don’t trust them anymore. It’s sad dough…

  • Jack Buckmeir

    anyone stupid enough to have sympathy for Sharks deserves to be eaten alive by one.

    • Joseph Charles

      Sharks are better people than you.

  • Joseph Charles

    Yes, there’s a lot of evidence it isn’t still alive. Did you read the article? Do you read anything?

  • Joseph Charles

    Reading the comments, wow. There are a lot of stupid motherfuckers out there.

  • Cronus

    Why did people fall for Discovery channel hoax because they believe it was indeed an objective channel presenting facts or solid theories and fake news. I recommend people spread the word and never allow your children or anyone believe what ever is on the discovery channel. The world we live in now is full of corruption and deception that it is hard to trust even our institution. Corruption has seeped in over time and nobody really blinks an eye. There should be laws that out line in big bold types and plain English fiction that is presented as non-fiction. We must start to vote with our feet and money. We need to do more research and sort out the facts behind slick presented political adds of any party. What we see is not necessary the facts presented as the truth. Be wary… we got Trump out of desperation.


Science Sushi

Real Science. Served Raw.

About Christie Wilcox

Dr. Christie Wilcox is a science writer based in the greater Seattle area. Her bylines include National Geographic, Popular Science, and Quanta. Her debut book, Venomous, released August 2016 (Scientific American/FSG Books). To learn more about her life and work, check out her webpage or follow her on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook.


See More


@NerdyChristie on Twitter

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!