Researchers were shocked to see what appeared to be a massive 50ft megalodon on a sea scanner underneath their boat.

The group from the Atlantic Shark Institute thought they had made history when a massive red shape appeared on their underwater movement detector.

They initially thought it could be a megalodon, a three million years extinct prehistoric shark weighing roughly 40 tons.

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However, their hopes of making history were dashed after a few minutes when the huge shape scattered into thousands of small fish.

What they had actually spotted was a closely packed school of Atlantic mackerel that had formed the shape of a shark, reports the Mirror.

Mackerel often hunt for food in packs looking for plankton and other morsels.

The group published the image of the mackerel packed together on Instagram and shared their “disappointment” when it turned out not to be a megalodon.

They wrote: “Does the Meg exist? On a recent shark research trip we were all amused to see this shape appear on our fish finder for several minutes. Based on the length of the image we estimated the 'Meg' to be about 50 feet long, weighing in at 40 tons!

"We waited for one of the rods to go off however, much to our disappointment, the shape started to transition into a large school of Atlantic mackerel that hung around the boat for about 15 minutes.

"So close, but so far! The Megalodon (Otodus megalodon), disappeared more than 3 million years ago and will likely stay that way, but, for a few minutes, we thought he had returned!”

They also said: "It was actually kind of funny when one of the team said, 'we’ve got a Meg under the boat'. We were definitely using undersized equipment for that!"

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Put into comparison, the largest great white shark called Deep Blue was 20ft long – less than half the size of a megalodon.

The earliest megalodon existed around 20 million years ago. They were dominant predators in the sea for around 13 million years before becoming extinct.

Megalodon are one of the most powerful predators to have existed, according to the Natural History Museum.

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