A group of marine biologists watched the new Syfy movie Mega-Shark vs. Mecha-Shark, which made them wonder what would happen if megalodon actually were alive today. Likely, it would be hunted to near-extinction for its fins — which would, they estimated, make 70,456 bowls of shark fin soup.
They reached this estimate by looking at typical shark fin-to-carcass ratios, and then extrapolating based on what paleontologists know about the extinct mega-shark megalodon. Plus, it only takes a small amount of material from the fin to make each bowl of soup.
Shark expert and conservation biologist David Shiffman breaks it down for you:
It should be noted that fin to carcass ratios are not a great way to manage a shark fishery, but we can use the global average fin to carcass ratio to estimate how large a megalodon's fins would be. If a typical adult megalodon would weigh 50 metric tons, and on average 3% of a shark's mass is fins, then we can estimate that a typical adult megalodon would have approximately 1.5 metric tons of fins. The market prices for fins listed above are for dried fins, but since there is limited information on how much weight is lost during drying, I'll assume for the purpose of this and future calculations that the total weight of a megalodon's fins does not change during drying.
Let's ignore recent market trends and the extra added value of rare, large fins, and just the low-end estimate of $400 per kilogram. If a typical adult megalodon has 1.5 metric tons (1,500 kilograms) of fins, and fins sell for $400 a kilogram, then the fins of an adult megalodon could be sold for a total of $600,000. If it takes three quarters of an ounce of dried shark fin to make one bowl of shark fin soup, then with 1.5 metric tons (52,910 ounces) of shark fins, you could make 70,456 bowls of shark fin soup.
The idea that megalodon might get hunted down for its fins is, unfortunately, not terribly science fictional. Rare sharks are valued for their fins, and sell for enormous amounts of money. The problem is that finning the shark condemns it to a slow, awful death — and, since sharks mature slowly and reproduce late in life, this practice is decimating shark populations.
Read more about shark conservation and megalodon soup at Southern Fried Science