Shark tooth hunting: how to find toothy treasure and where to look

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Sharks are known as iconic marine predators – and their sharp bites come with the territory.

According to National Geographic, some shark species can have hundreds or even thousands of teeth at once that are constantly pulled or broken while feasting on prey.

Marine biologist Jillian Morris explained in a National Geographic report that sharks lose their teeth in a treadmill-like system; teeth are constantly falling out and growing back.

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“More teeth are always growing in their jawbone and moving forward to replace the ones that are lost,” she said.

“It’s a brilliant design.”

A great white shark is shown up close.
(Stock)

Given that sharks can shed up to 50,000 teeth in their lifetime – and have done so for over 400 million years – there are plenty of discarded teeth to be found.

Modern teeth can be found on US coasts, while fossilized shark teeth are more likely to appear in specific locations, especially locations that were once underwater.

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Some shark teeth that may have fallen to the ocean floor and hardened into sedimentary rocks over time have resurfaced as coastlines have changed over millions of years.

Erosion caused by ocean waves will often chip rocks on the surface, revealing fossilized teeth.

A little girl holds one of her many treasures to the full.

A little girl holds one of her many treasures to the full.
(Howard Lee Puckett/MCT/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Water rushing into the banks can also unearth fossils, as well as exposed cliffs where erosion has taken place.

East Coast beaches in states such as Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina are the best for discovering fossilized shark teeth, as these areas were once submerged.

Venice, Florida is often referred to as the “shark tooth capital of the world”.

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Paleobiology professor Kenshu Shimada shared with National Geographic that because more teeth can be found in smaller amounts of rock in these areas due to slow sediment development, shark tooth hunters will likely be in luck.

A paleontology student shows off a tooth from an 8-12 million year old mako shark July 14, 2005 in Scotts Valley, California.

A paleontology student shows off a tooth from an 8-12 million year old mako shark July 14, 2005 in Scotts Valley, California.
(PAUL CHINN/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

The west coast beaches are not so lucky in terms of producing fossilized teeth, but modern shark teeth can still be found.

Tips for your hunt

National Geographic recommends searching local areas from coast to coast that were once covered by the ocean, to increase the chances of finding hidden treasures.

Before you go hunting, bring a bag or bucket for tooth collections.

A little boy checks shark teeth collected during the 32nd annual North Atlantic Monster Shark Fishing Tournament in New Bedford, Mass., Saturday, July 14, 2018.

A little boy checks shark teeth collected during the 32nd annual North Atlantic Monster Shark Fishing Tournament in New Bedford, Mass., Saturday, July 14, 2018.
(JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

It is recommended to leave early for the beach, as well as to search at low tide or after a storm, when the ocean may have pushed things around.

The search for teeth requires a lot of patience.

National Geographic suggests searching slowly, especially if you’re bringing young children with you on the trip.

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More teeth can be discovered under the wet sand where the waves crash on the shore, so bring a small shovel to dig deeper.

A great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) - baited by wildlife guide Andre Hartmann - surfaces with an impressive open mouth December 2, 2007 in Gansbaii, South Africa, in the Atlantic Ocean.

A great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) – baited by wildlife guide Andre Hartmann – surfaces with an impressive open mouth December 2, 2007 in Gansbaii, South Africa, in the Atlantic Ocean.
(Alexis Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

Sandy areas with shells and other debris may hide small teeth that look like dark, shiny triangles; they can be the size of a finger.

The color of the shark’s tooth can tell a lot about its origin.

Most of the fossilized teeth are black or brown, while some have red or green hues from minerals in the sediment, National Geographic also shared.

A shark's upper jaw shows serrated teeth found in Madagascar.

A shark’s upper jaw shows serrated teeth found in Madagascar.
(Arterra Group/Universal Images via Getty Images)

Light colored or white teeth usually means the teeth are from a modern day shark.

Shark teeth correspond to the shark’s prey, so it can be simple to identify the origin.

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For example, the serrated, curved teeth belonging to a tiger shark can tear apart the shells of sea turtles – while the super sharp, sharp teeth belonging to the great white are meant to crush seal bones.

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