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Hunting for Shark Teeth

When you go to one of Florida’s many beaches, you’ll likely see people hunched over along the shoreline. If you're new to Florida, welcome! If not, you're probably already familiar with what’s locally known as the “Sanibel Stoop” – that painful-looking posture of hunched over beach-goers, named after shell-hunters on Sanibel Island. While many of the people are looking for whatever pretty shells they can find, others are looking for something that generally causes small children to squeal (either with terror, or delight, depending on the child). Yup, I’m referring to the much sought-after shark tooth. Most of the teeth found along the shores are dark (black, gray, or brown) and fossilized, not the pearly whites of the ones swimming off-shore. Hopefully, way, way off-shore. Once you train your eyes to look for the distinctive triangular shape, chances are that you’ll start seeing them, if they’re there. Venice Beach is considered the Shark Tooth Capital of the World. I don’t know if that’s a self-proclaimed title or not, but I’ve always found teeth when I’ve been there, so it’s probably well-deserved. The beaches on Manasota Key are also a good bet for finding these fossils. I never leave the beach until I’ve found at least one tooth. Of course, I don’t really want to leave the beach, so maybe I need to change what I’m looking for…

The tooth everyone secretly, or not so secretly, wants to find is one from a megalodon. You know the one – the one that makes the shark from Jaws look like a baby minnow. We were in a conversation with a fellow beach-goer the other day and he informed us that we were looking in the wrong place for megalodon teeth. He claimed that the Peace River, by Arcadia, Florida, was the place to go. He told tales (tall, perhaps) of going up there all the time and finding huge megalodon teeth in the river banks. This sounded like a great adventure and I was all set to jump in the car, go on a road trip, and then throw on some water shoes and find me a giant megalodon tooth. But then he casually, almost like an afterthought, pointed out the need to have a spotter on shore watching out for alligators that frequent the area. Yikes, that was enough for me – it would have helped if he’d mentioned that first! I’ll let some other brave soul worry about being eaten alive by some hungry reptile while looking for teeth from an enormous extinct shark. I’ll stick to what I can find on one of my nice safe beaches. The teeth I discover are juuust right for me, thank you very much.

As an FYI – there is actually a company that does Guided Fossil Expeditions on the Peace River. I haven’t decided if I’ll add them to my bucket list yet, but their website has some good information and some stunning photographs.

The largest shark tooth I’ve found so far was almost 1.5 inches and I found it on Manasota Key.

Large shark tooth next to a typical sized tooth.
Largest tooth I've found so far versus a typical tooth on Manasota Key.

What’s the biggest shark tooth you’ve found, and where did you find it?

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