At different locations in Florida, you may find shark teeth in the sandy beaches. Some of them are fossils, and some are more recent tooth losses.
One area of Florida with a great concentration of shark teeth is Venice Beach on the Gulf Coast. This area is called the “shark tooth capital of the world.”
Shark Tooth Capital of the World
Venice Beach, Florida, is called the “shark tooth capital of the world” because of its preponderance of fossilized shark teeth. In particular, Caspersen Beach is a rocky portion of the area that is home to a glut of Venice Beach fossils.
Every year, Venice hosts a Shark's Tooth Festival that provides educational opportunities as well as the chance to buy good quality fossils. So why are there so many Venice Beach fossils? It helps to understand the lay of the land and sea in both the present and the past.
Prehistoric Seas and Venice Beach Sharks
In prehistoric times, 10 million years in the past, what is now Florida lay submerged under seas. A plethora of sharks plied those waters, and on portions of land, other prehistoric animals roamed such as mastodons, mammoths and saber-toothed cats.
As for the Venice Beach sharks, the species that lived in Florida included makos, bull, sand, lemon, great whites, tiger sharks and the massive megalodon, which is now extinct. Sharks lose thousands of teeth in their lifetimes, so over millions of years, a significant amount of shark teeth fossils have built up.
The enormous megalodon is the most prized tooth fossil of all the Venice Beach sharks. They can be several inches long. There is a layer of fossils in the Venice Beach area that can range up to 35 feet deep!
Good Locations for Shark Teeth Hunting
In southwest Florida, Venice Beach sits along a sloping shelf of a coastal land mass. With no sharp drop, a layer of shark teeth fossils is gradually eroded and brought on shore. The aforementioned Caspersen Beach offers a good concentration of shark teeth fossils at low tide, with about four miles of beach available to search. Other prime locations include Casey Key and Manasota Key.
The Venice Fishing Pier can operate as a base of operations in your Venice Beach shark fossil hunt. There are also places where you can kayak to hunt for shark teeth. The Peace River offers good chances for fossil expedition tours, with November through May being the best time to go. These tours provide great ways to learn about the rest of Florida’s natural history as well.
Different vendors offer rentals or sales of shovels and screened baskets, perfect for sorting through the sand. You may find coral pieces, shells and possibly other fossils in your quest. Finding at least one tooth is essentially guaranteed.
Tools to Use for Venice Beach Fossils
If you would like to hunt for Venice Beach fossils, obtain a fossil-hunting permit. This is not required for shark teeth per se, but as there are vertebrate fossils also prevalent, the permit allows for their preservation.
Fossilized shark teeth tend to be dark in color, whereas newer teeth are paler. Use a scoop to dig into the sand, and use a screen to filter through the sand to look for shark teeth. Some captains provide charter trips for divers, who can find much larger prehistoric shark teeth fossils a bit offshore.
The majority of the shark teeth you will find may range from 1/8 of an inch to 3/4 of an inch. Megalodon teeth are larger, and each inch of tooth length corresponds to 10 feet of the animal’s length! Whatever shark teeth you find, you can marvel at the wonder of so many sharks that lived so long ago.
About the Author
J. Dianne Dotson is a science writer with a degree in zoology/ecology and evolutionary biology. She spent nine years working in laboratory and clinical research. A lifelong writer, Dianne is also a content manager and science fiction & fantasy novelist. Dianne features science as well as writing topics on her website, jdiannedotson.com.
Chad Baker/Jason Reed/Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images