It seems incredible but it’s true: you can walk along a beach in Venice Florida and pick up fossil sharks’ teeth millions of years old.
How is it possible that for decades visitors to Venice Florida have found fossil sharks’ teeth on Venice beaches, picked them up, taken them away, and later visitors have found more?
How can there be so many sharks’ teeth left from millions of years ago?
The simple answer is twofold:
- There are 370 varieties of sharks
- Sharks have several parallel rows of teeth. As they feed, the front row of teeth falls out and is replaced by a new row growing from behind. A row may be replaced in as little as a week or two, or as long as a month or two when the shark is less active in feeding.
In its lifetime, a single shark may produce as many as 25,000 teeth!
It’s worth noting that the sharks’ teeth you may find on a Venice beach are usually not the teeth themselves, but fossils, mineral replicas of the teeth. As the original material of the teeth wasted away, it was replaced by minerals in exactly the same shape.
You needn’t travel to Washington DC to see sharks’ teeth. In Venice, you can find your own…and make your own collection.
Many sharks’ teeth hunters use a tool such as a Venice Snowshovel: a scoop made of wire mesh hardware cloth attached to a long handle. You scoop up the shells, pebbles and other matter right where the waves deposit them just offshore, and sort through the stuff for sharks’ teeth.
Granted, it’s not perhaps as easy as in years past. Collection of sharks’ teeth by hundreds of thousands of residents and visitors over decades has depleted the supply, and a major dredging and replenishing of sand along Venice Beach in the 1990s may have changed the patterns of the sea’s movements.
But it is certainly still possible. The teeth you see in the photo on this page are among a handful collected easily in a half hour’s walk along Caspersen Beach.