Photograph by Donna Krebs Strich, Alamy
Millions of years ago, a series of ancient seas covered and then receded from the landmass forming present-day Florida. Since a shark can drop many thousands of teeth in a lifetime, dark-hued, fossilized teeth and more recent white teeth can be found in sandy creek bottoms and riverbeds and in coastal areas around the state.
Fossil Expeditions, Arcadia
Kayak along the Peace River to look for shark teeth—as well as bone and tooth fragments from prehistoric mammoths, mastodons, horses, and saber-toothed cats—on a guided Fossil Expeditions tour. Owner-guides Mark and Marisa Renz provide all the required permits, instructions, and gear, including the sifters used to cull teeth and other treasure from sandy sediment. "Screen-washing in the Peace River with us gives you the opportunity to find and keep a piece of the past never before seen by human eyes," says Mark. "In addition to finding fossilized teeth from tiger [sharks], makos, and great whites, you could uncover the most sought-after Paleo prize—the tooth of an extinct megalodon. The chompers of these supersharks are scattered across Florida, ancient remnants of when the state was submerged by shallow seas."
Caspersen Beach Park, Venice
In Venice, known as the "shark's tooth capital of the world," rocky Caspersen Beach is considered prime fossil-hunting territory. At low tide, a ribbon of dark sand is deposited at water's edge, where sifter-wielding collectors search for the fossilized shark teeth that often wash ashore. Caspersen is short on crowds (particularly on the southernmost end of the beach, away from the parking area) and big on shoreline—the 177-acre park has about four miles of beachfront. So even if you don't have a sifter or wade out into the water, chances are good that you'll find shark teeth simply by walking on the beach.
Coastal Fossil Adventures, Jacksonville
The coastal areas of northeast Florida are a bit of a best kept secret when it comes to collecting fossil shark teeth, says John Owen, owner and lead guide of Coastal Fossil Adventures. Owen, who has been hunting for—and finding—shark teeth for nearly 40 years, specializes in custom kayak and beach-walk fossil hunts designed to fit an individual's or group's activity and interest level. "In addition to helping people find and identify fossil shark teeth, I teach them about Florida's natural history and educate them on the extinct and current sharks that inhabit our waters," he adds. "Regardless of how many teeth we find, you're guaranteed to learn a lot and have an enjoyable outdoor experience."
When to Go: The best time to hunt for shark teeth is November through May (dry season) in the Peace River; December through March (winter storm season) on Jacksonville area beaches; and at low tide (particularly on the morning of a full moon or after a storm) on Caspersen Beach.
Practical Tip: If you plan to go shark tooth hunting without a guide, apply online for a Florida Fossil Permit. Although a permit is not required to collect fossil shark teeth, you may encounter permit-only fossils while hunting.
Best Bet: Each year, Venice hosts a Shark's Tooth Festival (April 10-12 in 2015), where you can browse collections of shark teeth and other prehistoric fossils on display or for purchase from fossil collectors.
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