“For most people, the thrill of recognize a shark tooth is understanding that you space the very first human to collection eyes on it and also hold it,” says Ashby Gale. “To have the ability to have that connection with one extinct pet drives that fascination.” Gale is no stranger come fossil-finding. It’s a love he’s made a job of together a paleontologist and the founder and also primary tour guide of Charleston Fossil Adventures, based in Charleston, southern Carolina.

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“Here in southern Carolina, and in the Southeast, us are very fossil-rich,” Gale says. Fossilized shark teeth abound and also can variety in age from 10,000 years old come an astonishing 75 million year old. Gale’s comprehensive book, A Beachcomber’s overview to Fossils, which that co-authored through his parents (his father is an ecologist, his mom an artist), will be the end this November. But in the meantime, we captured up v the paleontologist to acquire his experienced tips for finding shark teeth and other fossils on southern beaches.


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Pick a fossiliferous beach

A good place to begin is with a beach the undergoes dredging and also beach renourishment. This process vacuums up loads of fossil-rich sand and sediment native the s floor, which then ends up on beaches. And also once you’ve choose a beach, obtain to recognize it. The first time you go out, Gale advises, go at low birds to get the broadest limit possible, and also check ago often. “It’s a new beach every twelve hours,” he says. Hurricane and Nor’easter seasons shake things up well, but you can discover fossils year-round. Gale names Folly beach in Charleston as his an individual favorite, along with the Wilmington and also Topsail Beach areas of north Carolina, and Amelia Island and also Jacksonville in Florida. And also of course, Venice Beach, Florida, is well-known as the Shark Tooth funding of the World.


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photo: Ashby Gale
A great white shark tooth discovered in Charleston.

Scan covering piles and check approximately the strand line


“The s sorts points by size and also density,” Gale says, and also it will certainly collect comparable items and also deposit them on the shore together. Therefore, your best chance of recognize a fossil is in piles of covering or gravel, and also if you’ve discovered one, there are most likely more. If over there aren’t any obvious piles, inspect the strand heat (the line whereby the ocean deposits essential material and also debris at high tide). Gale doesn’t advise digging; you’ll just cover less surface area and encounter much more of the same product that’s on height of the beach. “Let the ocean do the difficult work of sorting for you,” the says.

Look for jet-black items

Color is the solitary biggest signal that you’ve discovered a fossil. Friend are searching for a an extremely black color, which originates from phosphate, a sediment that commonly forms about bone and other product that contains calcium. Despite fossils in the Southeast deserve to occasionally take it on various other colors or be bleaching by the sun, the vast bulk will be black. Shark this from existing times that room still white are exceptionally rare, as there space so many an ext fossilized this from the millions of years that sharks’ visibility (in thousands of uncovered teeth, Gale has actually only uncovered three from the existing day).


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Think small

Most of the moment you won’t be coming throughout alarge megalodon this in perfect condition, for this reason it’s crucial to keep your eyes dialed down. “If you acquire used to spotting the little ones, you’ll understand when there’s a huge one,” Gale says. And not all this look prefer those of the above megalodon or good white—the majority, in fact, room long and also slender or T-shaped (these frequently come native sand tiger, lemon, and also reef sharks). Some may be fragmented, too, therefore don’t border yourself by only looking for triangular shapes.


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photo: Ashby Gale

Stay attuned to symmetry, patterns, and also dense material

Whereas shells feel thin and also fragile, mineralized teeth are an extremely sturdy, and also this denser material can help you differentiate from oysters or shells. Symmetry and patterns, far less likely in rocks and also other debris than in a tooth, are additionally tell-tale signs.

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photo: Ashby Gale
Gale family members fossil finds from Topsail Beach, phibìc Carolina, ranging from 11,000 to 75 million year old.

Bonus: nothing overlook various other fossils

“If you border yourself to looking for shark teeth, you will do be go over around 80 percent that the fossil product on the beach,” Gale says. Beaches will typically turn increase fossils native a selection of marine and terrestrial mammals and also other animals—including saber-toothed tiger teeth, Ice period box and pond turtle shells, sea robin fish skulls, bison teeth…and the perform goes on. As with shark teeth, watch for that dark black color color, symmetry, and patterns.