Is it possible that a large prehistoric creature thought to be long extinct is in fact still living in remote parts of our planet? This idea certainly captures our imaginations and those of cryptozoologists everywhere. And of course, where would so many low-budget horror and sci-fi films get their cheap thrills without some unidentified monster trudging up from the slimy depths to terrorize the townsfolk?
The Megalodon shark (Carcharodon megalodon) is certainly a good candidate for such a movie. It is far from mythical, however. These terrifyingly-impressive 40-50 foot long versions of the White Shark did in fact once lurk in the waters of the distant past.
It is believed that these very real monsters became extinct sometime in the mid-to late Pliocene era. That is probably a good thing. Otherwise I doubt many people would care to risk a salt-water swim.
But is there any chance at all that this beast is still alive? Not likely. However, there have been a few reported sightings of huge sharks by reputable witnesses. Many of these people were quite familiar with the sea and its creatures, including the common species of shark. One of these witnesses was none other than the famous author of Western novels, Zane Grey, in the late 1920s.
Everyone who reported a sighting has insisted that the shark they saw was much, much longer and larger than anything known to science. Often they are described as being 'as big as a boat' or even bigger.
The possibility that the Megalodon survives is unlikely, but not altogether impossible. For centuries, people have told of sea serpents and monsters of the deep. Most are probably little more than the overactive imaginations of seamen mixed with too much alcohol. Some, however- such as the giant squid, once thought to be a myth- have been confirmed as real, living animals.
Many locations around the globe have their own resident water-monster. The most famous of course is the Loch Ness Monster, 'Nessie', of Scotland. But other similar creatures (many with similarly cute names given to them by the locals: Champ, Caddy, Bessie, Ogopogo, etc.) have been seen even by credible witnesses including members of the clergy and the police force.
Suggestions have been made that these creatures, if they do exist, are a type of plesiosaur- a kind of marine dinosaur. The likelihood that any are still around is hard to believe, but with so many reported sighting from so many reputable sources, we have to at least consider the possibility. After all, the majority of these sightings describe the creatures as having a very plesiosaur-like appearance.
Then something happened in 1977 that caused a sensation. A Japanese fishing vessel trawling for mackerel hauled up an unidentified carcass of a huge creature weighing in at 4,000 pounds. The carcass was badly decomposed and smelled horrible, so they eventually threw it back to avoid contamination of their catch. But before they did, pictures and tissue samples were taken of the creature.
The photos clearly show, despite the decomposition, an animal with a long neck, small head, smooth back, and large, paddle-like flippers. While it's never been confirmed, the body pulled aboard certainly looks like it may be a plesiosaur-like animal.
Unidentified species are still being discovered. Even ones that have been identified, but have been thought to be long extinct have turned up. A well-known example is the 1938 discovery of a living Coelacanth- an ancient, primitive fish thought to have gone extinct along with the dinosaurs. Although rare, these fish are alive and well to this day.
While mankind has explored most of the land on earth, the majority of the sea is still uncharted. Much of it is simply too deep to make exploration by humans very possible. There is always a chance that creatures such as Megalodon or other large, prehistoric, or unknown animals are surviving and living their lives without our knowledge. We may in fact, never really know for sure.