As a seasonal resident between 1979 and 1992, Terry logged hundreds of miles on his daily beach walks as he searched for the sharp, pointed triangular-shaped sharks’ teeth that vary in color from brown to black to gray. Terry became enamored with collecting the fossils after a friend introduced him to the hobby while visiting undeveloped Caspersen Beach.
How Do You Find Sharks’ Teeth?
“You can find sharks’ teeth just by walking along the beach and scanning the sand,” reveals Terry. “No tools are required, although you will see many people with what is referred to as ‘the Venice snow shovel,’ which is a scoop with a screened basket and handle to dig down into the curl of the wave.”
“The best time to arrive at the beach to begin your sharks’ teeth search,” reveals Terry, “is at sunrise. Other optimal times are at an extreme or ‘dead’ low tide, during a full moon, or at the start of an incoming tide, and for two hours afterward. Fossil hunting is also good for a few days after a big storm affects the area.” The wind direction impacts fossil hunting, too. He adds, “When the wind is coming from a strong easterly direction, the wave action pushes shells and sharks’ teeth onto the beach. On the other hand, a strong northerly wind will hinder the hunt because it buries everything.”
“Venice has so many fossilized sharks’ teeth,” explains Terry, “because an ancient reef lies off the Venice coastline. The reef has acted as a sieve collecting sharks’ teeth over millions of years, so as the remains of the reef erodes, the teeth are freed to wash up onto our shoreline.” Terry goes on to explain, “One single shark produces 20,000 to 25,000 teeth during its lifetime. At any one time, a shark can have 24 top teeth and 22 teeth on the bottom, that’s 46 teeth in one row. Multiply that by several rows of teeth and you can have more than 250 teeth in a shark’s mouth at one time.” Sharks of all species are known to shed their teeth and grow new ones during their entire life, producing an abundance of teeth left to be fossilized.
Over the years, Terry has continued to add to his impressive collection of both fossil sharks’ teeth, fossil shells, as well as many other astounding discoveries. Since becoming a permanent resident in 1992, Terry has joined clubs and societies such as the Southwest Florida Fossil Club and the Florida Paleontological Society. “These clubs encourage visitors, have guest speakers, and conduct field trips to mines, pits and construction sites that ordinarily would not be open to the public.” Many of Terry’s more exciting, larger finds have occurred on such digs.
To find out more about sharks’ teeth, visit the annual Venice Shark’s Tooth Festival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 17 through 19, 2009, at the Venice Airport where vendors show and sell their fossil finds and sharks’ teeth.
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