Hunting for sharks teeth, an activity similar to shell collecting, but with definitely more bite, has become all the rage in the sunshine state, most likely due to the abundance of teeth found on Florida beaches. Since sharks produce and shed thousands of teeth, the numbers of them washing up on certain beaches are considerable. Also, since millions of years ago Florida was a sea bed and schooling grounds for Megalodons, 60-foot-long ancestors of today’s great white sharks, prodigious amounts of these fossilized prehistoric teeth are abundant on Florida beaches as well. And unlike other fossils found in Florida, you don’t need a permit to hunt them.
Dredging Up a Few Fossils
Shark’s teeth are the seashore treasure on Amelia Island, a barrier island in northeast Florida close to Jacksonville. They can be found nearly everywhere on the island, but they are most prevalent on Frenandia Beach due to a dredging project that uncovered a 20 million-year-old fossil deposit in sand that was later used in a beach renourishment project. Shark teeth become fossilized when they're quickly buried in silt, and absorb minerals through their porous surfaces over thousands or millions of years. The best way to spot them is to look for something dark and shiny in the sand.
A Find with Some Real Bite
The most rewarding area to hunt for shark’s teeth is along the Gulf Coast just below Tampa Bay. One spot that’s known for its abundance of shark teeth is Egmont Key, an island at the mouth of Tampa Bay. Popular with shellers and snorkelers alike for its pristine white-sand beaches and clear water, the island is home to Fort Dade, a long-abandoned Spanish-American War fort. Teeth, particularly Megalodon teeth, are found on the beach near the island’s lighthouse or just off shore in water no more than 8 feet deep. One tooth estimated to be more than 2 million years old, which was found on the beach in 2008, measured 5 inches long by 4.5-inches wide.
Shark Tooth Capital of the World
Venice Island, about an hour south of Tampa Bay just below Siesta Key in Sarasota, is often called the shark tooth capital of the world. Prehistoric shark teeth are so plentiful there that Tampa Bay Times writer Curtis Krueger said “they are considered the classic Florida Fossil.” Sharks have 40 teeth on each jaw, and behind this functional front row are seven rows of developing teeth to replace those lost or shed. A Tiger shark can produce up to 24,000 teeth in just a 10-year span. Tides wash them ashore, and one of the best beaches on the island to find them is Caspersen Beach at the Southern tip. Teeth are plentiful along the 9,000-foot stretch of sandy beach or just beyond the waterline. Caspersen Beach features free parking, picnic areas, pavilions, restrooms, and a canoe and kayak launch.
A Festival You Can Sink Your Teeth Into
Literally millions of both new and fossilized blue, gray, black, red-orange, white and even green shark teeth wash up on Venice Municipal Beach a few miles north of Caspersen Beach. Shark teeth hunting is so popular there that many downtown shops and even the local WalMart store sell scoop and sift baskets to aid hunters in their quests. Teeth found there range in size from an eighth of an inch to 3 inches. Venice Beach also hosts an annual Shark Teeth Festival in April. The weekend-long festival, held at the municipal airport festival grounds, features food, fossils, arts and crafts, entertainment, and children’s activities.