Eons ago, our ancient seas covered a lot of the U.S. However after the oceans retreated, landmass started forming in the southern states of the Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Since sharks can drop tens of thousands of teeth in a lifetime, old fossilized teeth and more recent white shiny teeth can be found along sand creek bottoms and riverbeds throughout the southern coastal borders.
So millennium's later, what's up with these old teeth? And why have they created such a frenzy?
It all started 23 to 3.6 million years ago during the Early Miocene to Pliocene periods. During that time an extinct breed of giant sharks ruled the seas. Called "Megalodon" for "big tooth," they were considered the largest and most powerful predators to have ever lived.
Bashford Dean was the first to reconstruct the jaw of a megalodon in 1909 for the American Museum of Natural History. He hypothesized that this giant jaw approached 30 meters (98 ft) in length.
Others researchers have since indicated Dean overestimated. In 2019, Kenshu Shimada of DePaul University arrived at today's acceptable size of 15.3 meters (47 and 50 ft).
Used in Wars
Coastal Native Americans Indians —in Florida and the Chesapeake, particularly — used them as weapons. “Sometimes they’d find huge megalodon teeth and hone them down into spear points,” noted Anna Marlis Burgard, author of The Beachcomber’s Companion: An Illustrated Guide to Collecting and Identifying Beach Treasures.
How to identify them . . .
For those who'd like to search for them today, keep an eye out for triangular shapes along the water's edge. While newer teeth are brighter, black teeth — which are more common finds — have been fossilized over time.
Tybee Island Georgia resident author Burgard said that "sometimes, shark teeth will have serrated edges and are curved in a certain way, depending on what side of the mouth the tooth was on.”
While many hunters have used kitty litter scoops or kitchen sieves to surface them, Burgard suggests using a professional sifter. She recommends the "Shark Tooth Sifter" patented and made in the U.S. It's designed specifically for beachcombing, and comes in three sizes: 12”, 10”, and 7."
Are they valuable?
Like all other fossils, shark's teeth can be valuable. They're readily bought, sold and traded by enthusiasts and collectors. The most valuable of all is the tooth of the giant megalodon shark, garnering tens of thousands. There are dozens of Internet sites devoted to the sale of these collectibles.
Aside from the monetary return, on any given hunt, you may find a tooth from a giant, prehistoric predator that's 10 to 50 million years old. That's pretty cool for collectors, in and of itself.
Some beaches are better than others when searching for shark teeth. Venice Beach, Florida claims be the title of “Shark Tooth Capital of the World,” due to its unique location above a deep fossil layer.
In Burgard's book, her best picks for beaches are Casey Key, Florida; Cherry Grove Beach, South Carolina; Manasota Key, Florida; Mickler’s Landing at Ponte Vedra Beach Florida; Topsail Beach, North Carolina; Tybee Island, Georgia.
When's the best time . . .
“Whenever there’s beach replenishment (such as Hunting Island in Beaufort, SC) or the ocean floor gets dredged, more shells and shark teeth are sure to show up,” Burgard says. This could be manmade or after a storm. Low tide is usually the best time and regions like sandbars, where water constantly shifts the sand tend to be the hot spots.
“There’s a very devoted fan base,” Burgard says. There's a yearly Shark Tooth Festival in Venice Beach and dozens of Facebook pages where enthusiasts trade tips and tricks, like "Toms Teeth..." are just a few of the many sources.
An event near where I reside is promoted as the Shark Tooth Frenzy at The Sands beach in Port Royal, SC. Unfortunately this year, it will be canceled due to the Coronavirus.
Do you dear reader, have any additional tips about the 'shark tooth frenzy." If so, please comment below. Your insights are important to us.
Primary Source: The Beachcomber 's Companion