How to Find Sharks' Teeth
Sharks' teeth are like black gold, historically speaking. They're amazing examples of ancient fossils, and some can be very valuable. Best of all, they can be found right on the sand, for free. All it takes is a sharp eye, a little effort, and some luck. I've always enjoyed shelling and saltwater fishing, and I went through a period when I was an avid searcher of sharks' teeth, or "shark teeth," as some people call them. Most of my searches have been on Georgia's barrier islands and the islands and beaches of Northeast Florida, but I'm sure you can find shark teeth just about anywhere that's adjacent to saltwater.
Find Black Gold on the Beach
As an avid beach-goer, I enjoy shelling. My favorite thing to find is shark teeth. Of course, these aren’t shells at all, but since they’re found on the beach as gifts from the sea, they’re usually loosely considered seashells. The teeth can be used to make jewelry, and sometimes groups of them are mounted and framed. They make great conversation pieces.
Many beach towns have souvenir stores and gift shops that sell sharks’ teeth and sharks’ teeth jewelry. If you’ve priced these, you know that they’re usually pretty expensive, especially for the larger specimens. Why not try to find your own on your next trip to the seashore? If you enjoy saltwater fishing from shore, looking for shark teeth is a great way to pass the time while you're waiting for a bite. Just stick your rod in the holder or sand spike and start searching!
About Sharks' Teeth
Almost all the sharks’ teeth you find are not actually the teeth themselves, but fossils of the teeth. Sharks are constantly losing teeth, and as they do so, a new one moves up to take its place. When the lost teeth sink to the bottom of the ocean and become buried in sediment, they begin to fossilize. The minerals in the sediment gradually replace the original tooth material. This process takes thousands of years to complete.
Fossilized shark teeth are different colors, depending on the sediment in which they were buried. Most are black and dark grey, while some are brown or tan. Fossilized sharks’ teeth of unusual colors are rare, and they're more valuable. Fossilized sharks’ teeth you find on the beach or in the water are probably millions of years old. In fact, the shark species the teeth belonged to might very well have been extinct for millennia.
Sharks’ teeth found in Georgia and Florida range in size from less than a half-inch to over six inches. These large teeth are from Megalodon sharks and are extremely rare.
How to Find Them
There are no set rules for finding fossilized shark teeth. If you ask five or six “experts,” chances are that you’ll get five or six different answers. I can only tell you what works for me.
Where to Look
Go to the beach at low tide, and look for tide lines—the lines of debris along the beach. Walk the tide lines and look for black triangles. These are the sharks’ teeth. While not all fossilzed teeth are exactly triangular in shape, most are. Others, like those of the sand tiger shark and the short-finned mako, are more stiletto-like in shape. Lemon shark teeth are shaped like the bone of a T-bone steak. If there are a lot of shells, scoop up a handful or bucketful and sift through them for teeth. You might want to collect a pail of shells and sit in your lounge chair while you search through them.
Another good place to look for sharks’ teeth is at the water’s edge. If you have a lot of competition on the beach, this might be your best chance of finding teeth because you’ll see them before any other collectors have a chance.
If any sandbars are visible at low tide, wade out to them. This is often a great place to find teeth. As you’re walking through the water, feel the bottom with your toes. Sharks' teeth and interesting seashells are sometimes trapped between sandbars or between the sandbar and the shoreline.
If you’re at a beach that has clear, calm surf, try snorkeling to search for shark teeth. I like to float in shallow water and lightly run my fingers through the sandy bottom. I’ve found some beautiful shells this way, along with numerous sharks’ teeth. I need to warn you, though, if you see a flat fish-shape buried under the sand, it’s probably either a flounder or a stingray. Flounder don’t sting; stingrays do. If you gently disturb the sand behind the ray, he’ll go along his merry way, but try not to surprise him. Stingray barbs are nasty—I know from personal experience. I tell that story in my “Killer Manatee” article.
When to Look
Many people find that shark teeth are more abundant on the new moon and the full moon because the pull of the tide is stronger. I don’t know if this is true, but I do know that after a storm or high winds, there will be more teeth and more shells in general on the beach. Also, if you can find an area where dredged sand has been added to a beach or near a beach, this is a great place to look for sharks’ teeth.
Learn About What You Find
If you find some treasures and are interested in their age or from what shark species they came, a quick online search will give you some answers. Also, a local shop will probably be able to help you.
Shelling and searching for sharks’ teeth is a great way to spend a couple of hours. Kids love it, too, and it can be a real learning experience for them. Even if you don’t find any shark teeth, you’ll have enjoyed the beach and gotten some exercise!