RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Researchers at North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences want to know why the world’s prehistoric shark had a deformed tooth.

Was the split tooth developmental or related to feeding?

The Otodus megalodon shark lived from 11 to 3.7 million years ago in the Miocene and early Pliocene periods.

It grew to the size of a bus and had massive teeth that could grow to six inches.

Normal versus deformed O. megalodon and C. leucas teeth. Photo: Matthew Zeher.

The abnormalilty researchers like Haviv Avrahami at N.C. State were studying is referred to as double tooth pathology – when a single tooth looks like it is split.

Avrahami, a doctoral student at N.C. State, said they started to notice a weird groove in some megalodon teeth samples at the museum.

“And so this started a journey for us of investigating why these teeth look like this,” Avrahami told CBS 17.

There are two main reasons that researchers beleive the megalodon’s tooth was “split” – one being a feeding-related injury to the tooth or a developmental issue like two teeth fusing together.

A megalodon tooth found off the North Carolina coast. Photo: Jeff Reeves/CBS 17

Avrahami and the team looked at three abnormal shark teeth: one 4-inch tooth from O. megalodon, and two from Carcharhinus leucas, a bull shark species that is still alive today.

They performed nano-CT imaging of the teeth to reveal more internal canals but they couldn’t establish that the issue was developmental.

“But along the way, I came across some papers from from from researchers a few decades ago that showed that in modern sharks, when they conveyor belt of teeth is damaged, sometimes by a fish spine, or sometimes by a fishing hook – it causes that mechanism, that conveyor belt of teeth to be damaged,” Avrahami said.

The teeth start out small in the shark’s jaw and grows as it is pushed to the front of the mouth.

So the team believes a fish spine or barb that pierced a developing tooth is behind the split.

Avrahami said the evidence isn’t conclusive but it gives insight on the megalodon’s diet.

Before, scientists knew megalodon’s ate whales after bones were found with giant gash marks in them.

So if the split tooth was due to eating a creature with a spine or barb – it could mean the massive shark was eating sometihng that could pierce its jaw, Avrahami said.